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My brother, Lou, used to tell me that the only way to beat a bully is to not fight fair. Jump the guy when he’s not looking, and fight like there are no rules. That’ll teach him that you’re nuts and not worth messing with.

He learned this lesson honestly. When Lou was in the navy, he immediately got flak for being Jewish. Someone tried to steal his bunk; Lou rammed the guy’s head into the wall. After that, whenever someone tried to take advantage of Lou, by cutting in the chow line, for instance, another sailor would restrain the miscreant. “Don’t do it! That’s Marcus. He’s crazy. He’ll kill you!”

The problem is that these days, there are just two kids on the block: The USA and the USSR. Each one’s the bully in the other’s eyes. If the Russians decide they can get in a sucker punch, they just might do it to get us out of the way, once and for all.

We have the same option, of course, but it is the avowed intention of our leaders that America will never start a nuclear war. The Soviets have not made such a pledge.

That’s why we have invested so much time and money in developing a strategic nuclear force. We want the Russians to know that we can strike back if they launch an attack, so that any attempt at a preemptive blow would be an act of suicide.

But we can’t retaliate if the first indication we have a Soviet attack is the sprouting of atomic mushrooms over our cities and missile fields.

To that end, we recently finished the construction of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) line, a string of radar installations along the northern coasts of Alaska and Canada. These can detect a missile some ten minutes from target. Still not a very good window of time in which to order a counter-strike.

Enter Midas...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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November is done, and the first chill of winter is upon us (for the rest of you, that happened about a month ago—we San Diegans are a happy lot). As we head into the Christmas shopping season, it's good to take a moment to reflect on where we've been and where we're going. Then we can dive into 24 commercially hectic days.

(read it at Galactic Journey!)
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Something very exciting happened this week: Spaceflight became routine.

Remember just a couple of years ago? The press was full of flopniks, grapefruit-sized spacecraft, and about a launch every other month. Every mission was an adventure, and space was the great unknown.

All that has changed. Not only are we launching more, and more advanced scientific satellites, but we are launching satellite systems. Only two months ago, the Navy launched the first of the Transit satellites. These satellites allow a ground-based observer to determine one's location to a fair degree of accuracy. But since there's no guarantee any one satellite will be overhead at a given time, you need a constellation of Transits.

Number two was launched last week on June 22. The age of reliable space utilization has dawned.

(learn more at Galactic Journey!)
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Remember the years before Sputnik when space news comprised semi-annual rocket launch reports, annual Willy Ley books, and the occasional Bonestell/Von Braun coffee table book?

Even after Sputnik, weeks would go by without a noteworthy event. But, slowly but surely, the pace of space launches has increased. Just this last week, I caught wind of four exciting pieces of news. I can imagine a day in the not too distant future when I have to pick and choose from a myriad of options rather than reporting on every mission.

So what happened this week?

Find out at Galactic Journey!
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"Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Mark Twain

That sage 19th century observation may not hold much longer if NASA has anything to say about it.

Last year, Vanguard 2 was touted as the first weather satellite because it had a pair of photocells designed to measure the amount of sunlight hitting the Earth. This way, scientists could quantify the sun's effects on our climate. No useful data was obtained, however, since the probe quickly became a whirling dervish. Explorer 7 has a sophisticated radiometer experiment, which is more successfully accomplishing the same mission.

But it was not until yesterday that humanity had an honest-to-goodness weather shutterbug in orbit snapping pictures of clouds from hundreds of miles above them.

The spacecraft is called TIROS: Television InfraRed Observation Satellite. Every 90 minutes, TIROS makes a complete circuit of the Earth, with most of the inhabited surface visible to its twin TV cameras. TIROS' photos are facsimiled to NASA headquarters (normally—I understand that the very first photos were conveyed via helicopter from the tracking station at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey). They can then be distributed to scientists, weathermen, reporters, the general public.

TIROS' first picture—compare it to the "photo" returned by Explorer 6!

TIROS is going to usher in a new era of meteorology. Weathermen will make accurate predictions days in advance. Hurricane courses will be mapped, saving lives and property. The President won't be rained out on golfing days.

Perhaps more importantly, TIROS proves once and for all the practical value of satellites. This isn't some eggheaded application too esoteric for the public to understand. Nor is it just jingoistic one-upsmanship. When someone asks you why we bother sending craft into space, you can point to TIROS' picture, the likes of which will soon replace the crude line drawings we currently find in our newspapers.

On a side note, TIROS marks the first homegrown NASA probe. All of the previous Pioneers and Explorers were made by outside contractors (like Space Technology Laboratories) or absorbed facilities (like the Jet Propulsion Laboratory). TIROS was made by NASA's Goddard Space Center in Maryland, which first started operation in June 1959. I'd say they've earned an "A" right out of the gate!

Speaking of reports, we're at a science fiction convention in Los Angeles this weekend. I'll try to have a wrap-up soon after the photos are developed. During the con's down-time, should there be any, I plan to finish Edmond Hamilton's recently released The Haunted Stars while lounging in a chair by the hotel pool. It's anyone's guess whether the convention or the book will get an article first...


(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)


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