Spectacular new space feats by both the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. have accelerated the lunar competition. Who's ahead now? Who will reach the moon first? And after that — what?
THE RACE to the moon is on again with renewed zeal. The United States and the Soviet Union, based on their most recent space triumphs, are apparently neck-and-neck in their concerted drive to land the first human beings on the lunar surface — and bring them back alive to tell about it.
U.S. space experts are now confident of a landing on the moon in the autumn, or possibly even the summer, of 1969. Their confidence stems from the huge success of the recently completed 11-day Apollo 7 flight of astronauts Walter Shirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham. It was a mission the Apollo program director said accomplished "101 percent" of its objectives. Apollo 7's success was especially gratifying since it was the first American manned flight since three astronauts were killed in a fire on the same launch pad 21 months before. Then, only four days after Apollo 7 landed, the Russians, practicing a little "one-up-manship," launched their first manned space shot in 18 months. Soviet Cosmonaut Georgi B. Beregovoy guided his Soyuz 3 capsule safely on a 95-hour journey around the earth. Soviet scientists, too, claimed their mission was near perfect. Two weeks after Soyuz 3, the Soviets launched an unmanned spacecraft, Zond 6, on a mission around the moon and back. Next major step in the moon race will be to send a manned mission on a lunar orbital flight. For the United States, this complex task is the announced goal of the Apollo 8 mission, scheduled for late December. And so it goes, with both sides piling up technical breakthroughs in the frantic effort to be the first on the moon. And to be first makes a great deal of difference, as far as the two contestants are concerned. "U.S. space officials," reported one American weekly, "are uncomfortably aware of the huge psychological difference between first and second place in the moon race." National pride, prestige, world respect, all hinges on the outcome of the "Great Race."
Long String of Soviet "Firsts"
If history is any guide, the Russians may very well beat the U.S. in the space-age version of the Amundsen-Scott race to the South Pole. While overall U.S. technological and scientific achievements in space are considered by many experts to be more impressive than those of the Russians, the Soviets have a peculiar knack for achieving significant "firsts." The Soviets, of course, were the ones to inaugurate the Space Age with their successful orbit of the world's first artificial Earth satellite. This was the 200-pound Sputnik on October 1, 1957. The Soviet Union also launched the first manned spacecraft — Vostok I — on April 12, 1961. The United States leads in space walks 9 to 1 — but the apparent lone Soviet space walk in 1965 was still the first one. It was the Soviet's Lunar 9, launched in January, 1966, that accomplished the world's first lunar soft landing and first transmitted photographs directly from the moon's surface. The latest Soviet "first" is Zond 5. In mid-September of this year, this unmanned Soviet space station became the first spacecraft to make the 500,000-mile flight from earth to moon and back to a successful recovery. Zond 6, a similar mission, followed seven weeks later. American space pioneer Dr. Wernher Von Braun described the successful flight around the moon and back of an unmanned Soviet spacecraft as "an outstanding demonstration of the U.S.S.R.'s capability in space... A truly remarkable and significant step forward in the exploration of the universe." Thus the surprising Soviets continue to come up with show-stopping space achievements. "In sum, the Soviets have consistently increased the size and scope of their space activities, and have appeared to concentrate on achieving technological space firsts and manned space flights having the widest popular appeal" (by George E. Wukelic, World Book Science Service). It is with this past history in mind that the U.S. is scheduling its coming shots in Apollo series as close together as technically possible.
Is It Worth It?
But after man — be he American or Russian — shuffles around on the bleak, barren, atmosphere-less surface of the moon — THEN WHAT? According to one source, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration "is not entirely sure what it will do after the first historic moon landing." More moon landings, perhaps? A few Mars "fly-bys?" More Venus probes? What exciting new goal can be dreamed up to inspire the imagination — and strain the national budget? Manned exploration of Mars or Venus — if indeed humanly possible — would run up a tab of 75 billion dollars! And mark this: The United States has already spent 44 billion dollars on its total space program since the launch of Sputnik I! What does America — and this goes for the Russians equally — really have to show for the huge expenditure, besides desirable "spin-off" by-products of the space program to private industry and certain advances in military technology? Why should there be such a thing as a space program in the first place? One leading U.S. weekly answered most candidly in concluding a long article on the subject: "Even in this age of science, man needs symbols and still puts up shrines to express his aspirations." This is nothing new. It's as old as history itself — even in the earliest biblical record. Notice Genesis 11:4 — "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name [a symbol, a shrine], lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." The Tower of Babel was the "space program" of its day! Let's get "down to earth" — literally! What is the purpose of life? Why were we created to be EARTHBOUND, oxygen-breathing human beings tied to the soil beneath our feet for our very sustenance? And yet, with a strange, driving desire to expand our horizons into the very heavens themselves. Yes, what is the purpose of life? Few know. A former deputy administrator of NASA once confessed: "None of us know what the final destiny of man may be — or if there is any end to his capacity for growth and adaptation." But this is not true. You can know the answer to the most fundamental questions of all — "Who am I? What am I doing here? Where am I going?" You need to read our two free booklets Who Will Rule Space? and Why Were You Born? In these gripping booklets you will see outlined a fantastic future for man. A future that even includes MASTERY OF SPACE, believe it or not! Man's feeble quest to reach the earth's nearest neighbor, the moon, will pale into insignificance when God's space program for man is revealed!