The shape of things to come! (New rockets; May 12, 1959)

I had planned to write about science fiction today, but then I found an article by Homer Newell, Assistant Director of Space Sciences at NASA, talking about the new stable of rocket boosters about to come into use.  So, it’s time for the science-fiction-into-fact column!

For the first year of the Space Race, the United States had just three boosters at its disposal.  One was the slender Vanguard, which had its share of mishaps before achieving its objective.  The Vanguard was the Navy’s contribution to this nation’s orbital activities, though it was developed under civilian authority (the only civilian booster to date, in fact, in the world).  The Juno I, also known as the Jupiter-C, about which there has been much nomenclature-related confusion was the Army’s rocket, and it launched the first American satellite, Explorer I.  Finally, there was the Air Force’s booster–the Thor IRBM mated with the top two stages of the Vanguard rocket, known as the Thor-Able.  It launched Pioneers 0-2.

Late last year, Von Braun’s Army team took the top stages of the Juno I and put them on a bigger missile, the Jupiter IRBM, and created the Juno II, which launched Pioneers 3-4

That was all she wrote for the International Geophysical Year, but now there’s a brand new crop of boosters that have been unveiled:

One of them, the Thor-Hustler, has already been used to launch the first Discoverers.  I know what a Thor is, but I’m not sure about the Hustler.  I think it’s a booster designed for a self-propelled bomb to be mounted on the sleek new jet bomber, the B-58 Hustler… but I could be wrong.

As might be expected, the powerful new Atlas is being mated to the Able and Hustler boosters just as the Thor was, and its heft should be correspondingly higher.  After all, the Atlas is designed to send atomic bombs all the way to Moscow from California, whereas the Thor is based in England.  I believe the Atlas Able will be used to launch a set of bigger Pioneers to the moon.  I don’t know what the Atlas Hustler will be used for.

But perhaps the most exciting development is that of the Scout rocket.  Able to put 300 pounds in orbit, a good ten times the ability of the Vanguard rocket, it is also five times cheaper to launch–a mere half a million dollars as opposed to 2.5 million dollars.  It is also a civilian booster.  Expect this little number to usher in an uprecedented new era of space shots.  Soon, the sky will be filled with scientific beep-beeps!

There’s more to tell, but I think I’ll wait until next time to discuss it.  Oh, you want a hint?  Let’s just say that there’s a big planet out beyond Jupiter…  and it’s namesake is going to be a doozy!

To wrap up this news segment of Galactic Journey, I present to you our beloved Vice President announcing the nation’s “Handicapped American of the Year,” Dr. Anne H. Carlsen of Grantsburg, Wisconsin, who lacks both hands and feet.  I suppose it’s appropriate that Mr. Nixon gave this award; after all, he is similarly afflicted, lacking charisma or conscience. 

Just a word to the wise to those sending me comments via the U.S. Postal Service: you’d better do it quick, because the Postmaster General has asked permission to raise the price of a First Class stamp from four cents to a full nickel! 

See you soon!

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