These are exciting times we live in. The drop in published science fiction is (almost) made up for by the increase in space-related articles in my newspaper. I read an Associated Press piece yesterday that I thought was particularly interesting:
“NEW YORK (AP) Colonies of Earthmen will occupy the Moon, Mars and Venus. Rockets will be burning their way toward the outer planets, more than three billion miles from Earth. Engineers will fashion huge space transports, capable of carrying hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people on space expeditions that may last most of a lifetime.
These are among the predictions for the next 25 years — the coming generation — made yesterday at a panel of nine space experts in astronautics, the journal of the American Rocket Society.
These experts were agreed that the Earth would soon be ringed with satellites and space stations… Huge rockets would roar between continents carrying cargo and passengers in minutes.”
The panelists included Dr. York, chief scientist for the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), Dr. Hugh Dryden, deputy administrator at the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, formerly NACA), Dr, Si Ramo, President of Space Technology Laboratories, and Dr. Wehrner von Braun, who had a minor rocketry position during the War and has since gone on to greater things with the U.S. Army.
Now is this a mainstream recognition that science fiction is becoming science fact? Or is this merely the wishful thinking of a bunch of folks whose business, frankly, is making a living off space travel?
Are they the same thing?
Either way, there is no question that bigger and better things are just around the corner. Dr. Dryden opines that there will be people in orbit in just a few years. Von Braun outlined a 2nd and 3rd generation of rockets in development that will ultimately throw up to 50,000 pounds into orbit at once!
I know that the Redstone-based Juno I, the famous booster that launched America’s first satellite (Explorer I), was retired last week after failing to launch Explorer VI. Its replacement will have the same upper stages but will be based on the much-larger Jupiter missile. I don’t know if that rocket will be big enough to put a person in orbit, but I’ll bet something based on the new Atlas ICBM could do it.
And it’s pretty clear that the Soviet rocket that put the ton-and-a-half Sputnik III into space could do it. Of course, I’m not sure where they’ll get the volunteers to fly in the thing if its anywhere near as balky as our rockets have been. If the first Russian satellite was Sputnik, and the second was Muttnik (because it carried a dog cosmonaut), I’m guessing the first manned ship will be called “Nutnik.”
It may well be that the first person in space won’t ride a cannonball but a spaceplane. I clipped from the paper on October 16th a picture of the Air Force’s new aircraft, the X-15. It’s a beautiful ship made by the same people who built the P-51 and the F-86. It’s supposed to fly at Mach 6 or 7 and go up as high as 50 miles above the ground. Vice President Nixon (remember him?) said of the craft, “We have moved into first place in the race to enter outer space.”
We’ll see how long we stay there.
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