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[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Sometimes, the future comes so fast, it bewilders.

This rushing feeling I've had all month must be similar to what my grandparents felt when the Wright Brothers first took off. For millennia, people have dreamed of flight, envying the birds. Yet flying was always the province of make-believe, of fanciful stories. Then, on one day in 1903, airplanes became a reality, and the world was transformed.



Ditto space travel. That dream has been alive since the Ancient Greeks, yet it was entirely a theoretical concern until the Soviets pierced the heavens with their first beeping Sputnik. It is easy to forget, now that there have been well over one hundred successful orbital missions, that just five years ago, there had been none.

The advances made just this month are tremendous, each one as significant as the breakthroughs I've just detailed. Let's review:

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Here's an end of March, real-world round-up for you before we plunge into the science fiction of April:


http://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKWHP-AR6454-B.aspx

President Kennedy devoted a good deal of time to the civil war in Laos at his fifth press conference, March 23. This three-cornered fight between the nationalists (propped up by the United States), the Communist Pathet Lao (backed by the Soviets and the North Vietnamese), and the neutralists has been going on since the end of last year. The Seventh Fleet was dispatched to the region along with a contingent of troops. For a while, it looked as if we were looking at another Korea.

I'm happy to report that both Kennedy and Premier Khruschev have now proposed plans for a peaceful solution to the crisis, one that involves the invading North Vietnamese disarming and going home. I fervently hope that this means Southeast Asia won't be the site of war in the 1960s.

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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We are definitely not far away from a person in space. The Soviets launched another of their five-ton spaceships into orbit. We're calling it Sputnik 9; who knows what they call it? On board was just one dog this time, name of Chernushka, who was recovered successfully after an unknown number of orbits. It is pretty clear that the vessel that carried Chernushka is the equivalent of our Mercury capsule, and once the Russians have gotten the bugs out of the ship, you can bet there will be a human at the controls.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The bird finally has wings!

By bird, I mean that lawn-dart of a rocket plane, NASA's X-15. Until yesterday, that sleek black vehicle, designed to probe the edges of space from underneath, had been a work in progress. The X-15 had already flown 25 times, zooming at faster than Mach 3 and climbing to a height of 40 kilometers. But its engines, a pair of Reaction Motors XLR11s, were an old set of training wheels: virtually the same rockets that pushed Chuck Yeager's X-1 past the sound barrier in 1947.

Together, these engines gave the plane a thrust of 32,000 lbf (pounds of force--or the force of Earth's gravity on one pound of matter). That's nothing to sneeze at, but it was always an interim solution. Yesterday, veteran test-pilot Scott Crossfield took the X-15 for a spin with the engine it was always meant to have: the Reaction Motors XLR99.

(find out how the flight went at Galactic Journey!)
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Greetings from sunny Orlando, Florida!

I know what you're thinking: why travel across the country to central Florida, which at first glance has little to offer to the tourist?

Firstly, my only first cousin on my father's side lives here with her family. Secondly, Orlando is home to the Martin Marrietta manufacturing plant—and guess who has a free pass to see the Titan and Atlas rocket assembly lines?

Also, I wanted to see the place before it is destroyed in next month's atomic holocaust. Or at least before Fidel's revolution travels to the mainland. I imagine it will hit Florida before other states.



As you can see, Orlando has gotten its Christmas decorations up early. Someday Christmas will precede Halloween, I predict.

I haven't had a chance to tour much, so I'll save the meat of my sightseeing report for next time. In the meantime, here's a Space News round-up:

(Note that neither of these stories happened in Florida, which just figures since it is one of the rare times I'm actually in the state)

As you know from reading this column, there are two competing manned space programs in this country. Sadly, one of them has suffered a setback: On its third mission, the rocket plane X-15 experienced an explosion in mid-flight. Luckily, pilot Scott Crossfield managed to dump his fuel in a jiffy and get the plane on the ground in one piece. He's fine, and the plane will fly again, but it won't go up until it's known precisely what happened.

The Air Force has also had a mishap: Discoverer 7, their capsule-return spacecraft designed for biological sample return (which hasn't carried an actual biological sample in several flights) got up into orbit just fine; but then it started to tumble, and the boys in blue couldn't get the capsule to separate from the rest of the craft.

While I may be cynical about the stated purpose of the Discoverer program, it does underline how technically complicated even an unmanned mission can be. Getting the rockets to work is only one of many problems to be tackled before we can think of sending a person into space.

I will try to have an update in two days' time, but it may have to wait until I get back home. I've a brand-new typewriter waiting for me there!

---

Note: I love comments (you can do so anonymously), and I always try to reply.
P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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The big news this week is Astounding is raising its price from 35 cents to four bits. It's a big jump, but I'm sure it's a necessary move given that Galaxy and F&SF also cost 50 cents (though IF is still at 35 cents).

It is significant that I have nibbled around the edges of the October Astounding, so to speak, starting with the non-fiction articles. I didn't like the first half of That Sweet Old Woman, and I doubt I'll care much for part two. I'll bite the bullet tonight. Probably.

But the non-fiction is pretty nifty. Campbell's editorial, for once, does not stink of psionics. He probably saw the writing on the wall when everyone, but everyone, at Worldcon ribbed him about his editorials and story-selection policy. So now John is openly asking for science articles, and he's hoping to introduce a slick page element to the magazine come the beginning of next year. I'm a science writer, so I'll be interested to see how it goes. Perhaps I'll submit an article or two.

I also liked Bill Boyd's article on obtaining blood-typing reagents from vegetables, Blood from a Turnip. It really sings the praises of basic research to see such a medical boon to humanity come from such a simple, off-the-wall experiment. The price of such reagents has been dropped a thousand-fold, as a result.

Next time, I promise to talk about fiction. Probably.

---



In Space Race news, the X-15 rocketplane made its maiden powered flight on September 17 with veteran pilot Scott Crossfield (the man who broke the Mach 2 barrier) at the controls. It was just a 9-minute flight using two underpowered XLR-11 engines rather than XLR-99 engine designed for the plane. The XLR-11 is actually the engine that sent Chuck Yeager past the sound barrier in 1948.

Moreover, the plane developed mechanical problems, and a small fire broke out. Crossfield was able to get the craft down safely, however.



And now to the ballistic manned space program. In a way, the Mercury project, that one-manned space capsule that will carry the first American into space, has already succeeded. Last week, on September 9, a boilerplate spacecraft was launched atop an Atlas ICBM. I’ve written about “Little Joe,” designed for low-level test firings of the Mercury. Naturally, the Atlas missions are called “Big Joe.” The recent mission marks the first time the Atlas has been used in support of the manned space program.

For the capsule, the mission was a complete success. It was lofted to a height of 90 miles, separated from the Atlas, and crashed into the ocean some 1424 miles away from its launching site at Cape Canaveral. The craft was in good shape, proving the sturdiness of its heat shield.

The Atlas, on the other hand, suffered some teething troubles. The Atlas missile has three engines, two of which are supposed to drop away when fuel is depleted. They didn’t. The Atlas also took its time separating from the spacecraft.
The flight was good enough, though. It is my understanding that NASA is considering the cancellation of “Big Joe 2,” scheduled to be launched sometime in the Fall.

So there you have it. Not only are the Americans and the Soviets neck and neck, but it seems that the two American space programs are also competing closely. It's an exciting time for those who bet.



---

P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!



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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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