At long last, the Soviets have launched another Sputnik.
While Americans try to pierce the sky with almost fortnightly frequency (more on that shortly), the Russians seem content to proceed at a more leisurely pace, but to get more bang for their buck. Their latest shot, which the press has dubbed Sputnik 4, but should really be called “Pre-Manned #1,” is something of a revolution.
We don’t know too much about the craft yet: only that it weighs an unprecedented 4 and a half tons, and that, like the Air Force’s Discoverer series, it has a reentry capsule. But whereas Discoverer’s putative biological sample return mission is likely a cover for a film capsule recovery surveillance system, Sputnik 4 is actually carrying a mannequin astronaut. Moreover, the craft is far too big for plain surveillance (I imagine, but perhaps the Soviets are not as good at miniaturization as we are; they don’t really have to be given how much more powerful their rockets are).
It’s definitely another milestone for the East in the Space Race. Now let’s see if they get their dummy spaceman back…
Sadly, the American space program had a setback day-before-yesterday when a Delta rocket, the evolution of the workhorse Thor Able, failed to make it to orbit when its second-stage attitude thrusters didn’t fire. At its tip was America’s next foray into satellite communications, Echo 1. It’s just a big metal balloon, but it would have allowed all sorts of message bouncing experiments. Now it’s a rusting hunk at the bottom of the Atlantic. That’ll teach NASA not to launch on Friday the 13th! Next launch is scheduled for the Summer.
Happier times for the Superpower chiefs
Meanwhile, the four-party (U.S., U.K., France, U.S.S.R.) Peace Summit begins tomorrow in Paris, despite the turbulence caused by the shooting down of an American spy plane over Russia on May 1. Nikita’s threatened to torpedo the whole thing many times, but perhaps the gorgeous Spring weather of the French capital will calm him down. Planned topics include the settling of the Berlin question and weapons disarmament–the same topics that have been on the table since 1948.
In Democratic Primary news, it looks like Humphrey is out, which essentially seals the nomination for Jack Kennedy, unless Johnson can arrange some sort of upset at the convention. The clincher came with a disappointing defeat for the Minnesota senator in West Virginia, after which, Humphrey announced the withdrawal of his candidacy for President. Despite Humphrey’s populist charm, Jack Kennedy simply had the better ground game and a more presidential demeanor. I also understand Kennedy is pushing for a minimum wage hike to $1.25 per hour (it’s at $1.00 right now). Good timing.
Finally, on a more personal note, I’m extending an invitation to jump on the bandwagon. As you know, I review only the most current literary and film science fiction and fantasy material. I started this column not just to make me rich and famous, but to discuss the material with fellow fans. I distribute copies where I can, but that’s not always possible. To that end, I’ll be letting you all know ahead of time what I plan to be reading the next month so you can read along with me. You can also keep up on current publications by perusing the announcement tables.
This month, the only new novel coming out is Judy Merril’s The Tomorrow People. There are some anthologies also coming out, but, I don’t tend to review anthologies since I generally catch the stories in their first run. I do occasionally cover reprints, as I did with Anderson’s Brain Wave. Of course, I will be covering the June 1960 magazines for this month (I’ve already reviewed Galaxy and some of Amazing).
See you in two!