Two vital factors are propelling the U.S. space program to new heights: 1) the need for a new national goal, 2) the determined search for extra-terrestrial life.
MAN has started his drive into the universe," proclaimed a leading American space official on the eve of the Apollo 11 launch. It was, he confidently predicted, "the beginning of a movement that will never stop!" President Nixon, welcoming home the three Apollo astronauts, told them: "Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man's world." Space is suddenly big news! The moon, say space scientists, is merely the first rung on the ladder of space.
Herald of a New Age?
Astounding achievements in space technology are capturing public attention around the world. First it was the resounding success of Apollo 11. And, close behind, never-before-seen pictures of the planet Mars from Mariners 6 and 7. Never in history had so many people watched a "live" event as the launch of America's Apollo 11 mission. The world television audience was estimated at somewhere between one-half and three-quarters of a billion people. Approximately the same size audience viewed Astronaut Neil Armstrong plant the first human foot on the alien surface of the moon. This was, in Armstrong's own words, "one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind!"
"Like the Tower of Babel"
The chief administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Thomas O. Paine, told a select Los Angeles gathering that the number of correspondents who came to the United States for the launch was unprecedented in news reporting history. There were 111 accredited correspondents from Japan alone! Said Paine: "The scene at the Cape and at Houston was like the Tower of Babel. I never saw so many different people waving arms in so many different directions at once." The last week before Apollo 11, reported Paine, it was impossible to reserve a seat on flights between South Africa and Britain. The reason? Many wealthy South Africans flew there just to watch the moon landing on television. The South African government is being pressured by its public to finally install national television. These, said Paine, are just a few of the worldwide impacts of man's surge into space.
Mariners Report from Mars
Following closely on the heels of Apollo 11's successful conclusion, two unmanned space probes zeroed in on earth's neighboring planet, Mars. I, along with our News Bureau staff members Dexter Faulkner and Don Schroeder, was at Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Laboratory several times during "encounter week" as the stream of data poured across nearly 60,000,000 miles of space from Mariners 6 and 7. The windmill-shaped U.S. space probes flashed back to JPL's television monitors such pictures of the "mysterious red planet" Mars as man had never before seen. The spectacularly clear pictures revealed a crater-pocked surface much closer in appearance to the moon than to the earth. Huge craters measure up to 300 miles wide. Many others are 10 or 15 miles in diameter and hundreds only a mile or two wide. It is obvious that most of the Martian craters are very ancient. According to Dr. Robert Leighton, who was in charge of the television experiments, the cratering rate in the entire solar system was much greater in the past than at present. Few seem to know why. Many of Mars's craters are shallow, nearly rimless, perhaps testifying to some wind activity having filled the crater bowls with loose surface material over eons of time. The similarity of the surface of Mars and the moon prompted one scientist to comment: "If indeed there were Martians traveling and trying to decide where to go, they would go to the moon instead of earth because it would be more hospitable to them."
No Nitrogen There
On board each marvelously engineered Mariner were five intricate sensing devices. What kind of world did these instruments detect? Essentially a dead, inhospitable planet lacking the essential ingredients necessary to support life. The biggest discovery of all in the Mariner 6 and 7 experiments was the fact that no nitrogen was discovered in the upper Martian atmosphere. Nitrogen is present in every life form on earth. Life as we know it cannot exist without it. Earth's atmosphere is composed of about 78 percent nitrogen. But there is no evidence of this key element on Mars. The planet's atmosphere was found to be extremely thin only one one-hundredth that of earth. This means that the atmospheric pressure on the Martian surface is comparable to an altitude of 100,000 to 150,000 feet on earth. Because of the greatly attenuated Martian atmosphere, extremely strong pulses of ultraviolet light reach the surface, virtually unfiltered. Admitted one scientist, Martian life would have to be "extremely durable" to withstand the unimpeded bombardment of ultraviolet rays. Water, too another key element to terrestrial life appears lacking, except for the possibility of trace amounts of water ice. Mariner 7's close-up views of the white polar cap indicated the region may be overlaid with drifts of frozen carbon dioxide "dry ice" rather than frozen water. Temperature readings revealed wide variations between day and night. They ranged from a high of 75° F during the day to nearly 100° F below zero at night along the equatorial regions. Not a very pleasant place to live or even visit. Mars, admitted Caltech's Dr. Norman Horowitz, resembles a hostile desert. If any life exists, some scientists think it could only be microbes and microbes of a totally different kind from those found on earth. But proof of life on Mars? There is none.
Faint Glimmer of Hope
The last scientist to speak at the final press conference did hold out one dying hope of finding some unspecified kind of life on the "Red Planet" (perhaps it should be relabeled "the Dead Planet"). Dr. George C. Pimentel, chemistry professor at the University of California, told the news conference in JPL's Von Karman Auditorium that one instrument in his infrared experiment detected evidence of methane and ammonia near the edge of Mars' white south polar cap. "If these elements really exist," he said, carefully selecting his words, "we can't escape the fact that they might be of biological origin." Pimentel said there was a remote possibility that an area near the edge of the cap might be able to support an unknown elementary form of life if there were a substantial reservoir of water. If life exists, he said "it would be protected from deadly solar radiation by the clouds of carbon dioxide." Pimentel contended carbon dioxide is suspended in the atmosphere over the polar region, not on the surface. But a temperature reading of -123° C found at the Martian south pole is hardly a "pre-condition" for life, no matter what other factors may be present. Dr. Pimentel's "optimism," however, was enough to send a number of newsmen scurrying to their typewriters. Others cheered and applauded. This was obviously what nearly everyone wanted to hear. Some of the reporters didn't even hear the words of caution expressed by Dr. Horwitz, a biologist, who summarized Pimentel's findings and the opposite conclusions reached by other scientists on the panel. They were too busy hammering out their stories. One could already see the headline in the morning paper "Scientist Says There May Be Life on Mars." Dr. Horowitz admitted he never has considered it probable that life exists on Mars or any other planet of the solar system except earth itself. But, he said, the discovery of life outside earth would be of such tremendous, overwhelming importance to science that it must be looked for no matter what the odds are against finding it.
Search Continues in 1971
In 1971 two Mariner-class vehicles are scheduled to orbit Mars for three months photographing large percentages of the Martian surface. Then, in a projected 1973 mission, Project Viking, two spacecraft are to orbit Mars and detach landing craft to descend to and operate on the surface. Both of these programs are obvious preparations for a manned mission to Mars, should it be approved. Extensive unmanned exploration of the moon preceded the Apollo program. Many scientists believe even the 1971 and 1973 missions will still be inconclusive as to the primary question of whether there indeed is life of any form on Mars. Only men prowling around on the Martian surface for perhaps several months can answer this question satisfactorily, they reason. According to Dr. Thomas O. Paine, chief administrator of NASA, there is "no question that man will go to Mars." Only two things are needed now: the will of the American people and the money from Congress. Cost estimates vary from $24 billion cost of Apollo to date to $50 billion or even $100 billion. NASA is presently preparing recommendations for space programs over the next decade. A report will be presented to President Nixon September 1. Plans for manned Mars missions are expected in the report.
Man on Mars in Ten Years?
It is generally believed a manned mission to Mars could be launched in 1981. Some space agency officials speculate the date could be as early as 1979. The remainder of the Apollo program nine more increasingly complex trips to the moon is almost being overlooked in the rush to prepare ground for the Martian adventure. One can almost hear the public say: "We've been to the moon. The scientists report there is no life there. Let's push on to Mars." Some astronauts have privately expressed doubts about the desirability of the long round trip to Mars total time would be one year and nine months unless they are convinced the rewards will be great. To those making such a journey, it will perhaps be the loneliest trip in human history. On the Martian surface the "good earth" will appear no bigger than a star. But it is obvious some manned program will be proposed and probably approved. The future existence of expensive facilities for manned flight operations at Houston, Cape Kennedy and other centers is at stake. And along with it the profits of some powerful industrial concerns. So the space program is a curious intermingling of politics, national prestige the desire to do "something big" and the relentless search on the part of science to find hoped-for clues outside of our own planet to the origin of life and the universe. Above all, it is the impulsive desire to simply push on and push out into space as far as humanly possible.
International Approach Needed
Other fantastic plans are being recommended for future space ventures. One is a series of unmanned "grand tours" of the five outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Another is a wide-range plan of manned earth-orbiting stations and manned lunar stations (explained in the accompanying interview with a leading space expert). But all this is both a financial and technological strain for just one nation the U.S. to undertake. The idea being increasingly discussed these days is the need for an international approach to space exploration. "We came in peace for all mankind" was the placard left behind on the moon by U. S. astronauts. But U.S. taxpayers, not "all mankind," footed the bill. On the matter of technology, leading U.S. space officials have openly voiced an invitation to space scientists in Europe and Japan to pool their knowledge with American experts. And if the Soviets are willing to make available their fund of knowledge all the better, they say. Some even express the hope that a worldwide unified space program may even divert man's mind away from international rivalry and warfare. Gradually, the world is becoming one at least in science and technology. It was that way once before in human history at the very Tower of Babel Dr. Paine referred to. The story is found in the eleventh chapter of Genesis. The tower expressed the desire of men over 4,000 years ago to unify their goals and purposes to achieve "oneness." According to the record, the world shortly after the Great Flood still had only one language. With this advantage, plus fired-up determination, the people at that time could have achieved a true space age within a very short time. Even in our 20th Century it has been only 66 years from the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk until the first man set foot on the moon. But the "tower project" was pulled up short. The record reads: "And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one" dedicated to a single driving purpose "and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do" (Genesis 11:6). This account says God interrupted their work by confusing their language and dispersing the peoples. If He hadn't, man's "imagination" would have brought about the space age in that era probably within a century or two.
Why Men on Moon Won't Bring Peace on Earth
But the Tower of Babel would not have enhanced the individual lives of the people. Again a close similarity to the space effort today. Often one hears the phrase, "If we can put a man on the moon, we can put an end to war." Or similar desired results such as "eliminate poverty," "find solutions to pollution," or "wipe out racism." But the parallel doesn't follow. As leading astronomer and Mars expert Dr. Robert S. Richardson told PLAIN TRUTH reporters at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: "My feeling about it is that we could spend all of this (space program] money on improving social conditions and the social conditions would still be just as bad as they are now.... I don't know how we are ever going to solve these problems they are entirely different. Going to the moon is one problem and we can zero right in. Social problems are tremendously diffuse and complex." The spin-off from space may give us space-age plastics but not peace, nor permanent solutions to earth's manifold problems. For all of its genuine excitement and no one who watched the moonwalk could say it was not exciting man's surge into space is diverting his attention away from mounting crises here on his own home planet. "We are justified in exploring Mars to find whether we could transplant terrestrial life to the planet and have it survive," said a space agency official at a Mariner news conference. But the survival of human life is at stake here on Earth now!
Outcome of Space Race Foreseen in Advance
Just what is behind man's gnawing desire to expand his horizons into space? Why do some even speak, futuristically, of "colonizing" other worlds? Is man forever limited to this planet? For the answer, you need to read our free booklet, Who Will Rule Space? A companion booklet, Why Were You Born? answers plainly the biggest of all questions "Who am I ?" and "Why am I here?" These two booklets reveal the fantastic destiny of the human race. And while you're at it, also read our new full-color booklet, Our Awesome Universe. It gives the keys to understanding the origin of all matter and life. You can know. It's not necessary to explore the surface of Mars or the atmosphere of Jupiter to find out! Also see this article's companion Man on Mars by 1980? An exclusive 1969 interview with Mr. Eric Burges, one of the world's foremost experts on space exploration.
Man on Mars by 1980?
Exclusive interview with Mr. Eric Burgess, one of the world's foremost experts on space exploration
Mr. Burgess, charter member of the British Interplanetary Society, has written nine books on space science. In 1939 he predicted man would be on the moon before 1970! Mr. Burgess was questioned by PLAIN TRUTH staff members Gene H. Hogberg and Dexter H. Faulkner.
QUESTION: In terms of new knowledge about Mars, how important are the Mariner 6 and 7 expeditions? ANSWER: I think they are very important, because they are giving us a transition from the telescopic views to the close-in pictures. As far as the television coverage of the planet is concerned, this is very, very important. But in addition we are carrying a lot of sophisticated equipment on the Mariners, which are going to give us much new information on the atmosphere of Mars, which we haven't been able to gather from the earth at all... So I think, in terms of new knowledge, the Mariner 6 and 7 expeditions are very important indeed. They will probably give us more knowledge about Mars in these few days than we've amassed since Mars was first observed in the 1600's. QUESTION: Do you feel that Mariner 6 and 7 can conclusively prove one way or the other whether there is life on Mars or if conditions for life do or do not exist? Or will we have to have a manned landing there to answer those questions? ANSWER: I think Mariner 6 and 7 will NOT prove whether or not there is life on Mars, but they should tell us whether there are conditions conducive for life to exist on Mars. I think definitely I have contended all along that although unmanned probes are the logical first steps in the space program, the only way we can really find wit is to get man down there. Because with all the experimental probe vehicles, they have to be programmed to do certain tasks; they're not flexible. Man is almost infinitely flexible. QUESTION: What year would you expect a manned expedition to Mars, if it would be approved? ANSWER:... I reckon that if we started going right away we could probably do it within ten years. QUESTION: I believe it was in 1952 that you predicted there would be unmanned probes of Mars? ANSWER: That was 1952, when I wrote my Martian probe article, which I think was the first technical paper on the possibility of sending photographic and instrumentive probes to Mars. QUESTION: Do you feel that there will be probes of other planets within our solar system? ANSWER: Yes, there will be probes to other planets. In fact one of the big things coming up in the seventies is going to be the "grand tour" of the planets by a probe. QUESTION: Would you explain that a little? ANSWER: Well, this is using the gravitational field of the planet to move a probe in a new orbit and swing it out and give it a boost so it can move further out into the solar system and do almost a grand tour of all the planets and then be shot out of the solar system. QUESTION: Do you think that our solar system is more or less the limit for man's space probing? ANSWER: No, I think we could send an inter-stellar probe, but the problem here is convincing people it should be done because this is a multi-generation project, rather than a multi-administration project. QUESTION: Has the U. S. space effort proceeded about the way you thought it would, satisfactorily to you? ANSWER: Yes, it has indeed. I wrote a book [Satellites and Space Flight) in 1956 which came out about a week before Sputnik 1 was launched, which was kind of a blueprint for the space program. We're about halfway through it, so we're doing pretty well and we're on schedule. QUESTION: Roughly what has been completed and what is yet to be accomplished? ANSWER: We've got audio-visual satellites, we've got "com" Bats [communications satellites), and scientific satellites. We've got lunar and planetary probes, and a soft landing on the moon and a probe. We've got manned circumnavigation of the moon and manned landing on the moon. QUESTION: Did you foresee all these events? ANSWER: Not quite in that sequence, because I visualized possibly a large manned orbital station before landing on the moon. Actually we didn't go quite that way we did put up orbiting stations, but only a small station, not a permanent station. The half not completed really is the manned orbital laboratory, the complement of crews being permanently in space. The other thing that has to come is a manned lunar base... like our Antarctic bases and specifically for scientific works, such as telescopes both optical and radio telescopes on the moon. Then I think what has to come is the manned interplanetary fly-bys which parallel the manned circumnavigation of the moon and the manned interplanetary landings. I also visualize interstellar probes to begin with and possibly interstellar flights later on when we have discovered new types of propulsion systems. I talked about planetary engineering in which we modify the environments of planets... [and] reconstitute the atmosphere and give us water on the planets and generally adapt them to colonization by man. I also talked about all this business which would lead ultimately to interstellar flight and the movement of life from our solar system. That depends upon nuclear and other advanced propulsion systems which we are barely touching on at the moment. So we have an awful lot of work to do ahead. QUESTION: So what you eventually see for these barren lifeless planets is actual colonization with the creation of atmospheric conditions where human beings can live? ANSWER: Yes, and this could probably start out with putting habitations under domes, but ultimately, you might be able to reconstitute the atmosphere. Now we know that the atmosphere will leak out over periods of astronomical time, but not if we keep replenishing it, until we've used all the material of the planet. We'd have to use the material of that planet itself to regenerate the atmosphere... QUESTION: Going back for a moment into the past. In 1939 you predicted man would be on the moon by 1970. How could you at that time so confidently and accurately foresee this? ANSWER: Back in 1939 I predicted man would be on the moon by 1970 because most of the technology required was really under study in those days. There were few actual breakthroughs needed. We had a pretty good line on what was needed to get to the moon. And we knew of the large rocket engines. We believed they could be built. We knew the navigation wasn't a serious problem. We knew that we needed internal power supplies we could see that all these things were possible, that it was mainly a development application rather than unusual breakthroughs. There was nothing significant that wasn't known that would have prevented us from going to the moon.... I regarded it as mainly a matter of money and dedication to a program to get to the moon. Also there was a distinct parallel with flight, heavier-than-air flight. Where people had regarded this as being completely impossible, "proved" it mathematically impossible and yet there were a number of pioneers who said, "Yes, you can fly with heavier-than-air machines." It is significant to know that the Royal Aeronautics Society was founded 50 years before the Wright brothers flew. We formed the British Interplanetary Society in England in an age of accelerating technology applications. This was founded in 1934, so it seemed reasonable at that time for me to predict that man could go to the moon.... depending upon whether any government was willing to commit the funds to do it. QUESTION: In a futuristic sense, do you feel that as a worldwide effort not just the United States man may be able to accomplish some of these feats that you have been talking about? ANSWER: Yes.... I don't think it is the sort of thing that really should be accomplished as a national effort. If we made it a worldwide effort, we could probably keep everybody on earth fully occupied and fully at work for the next several centuries instead of having them fighting each other. QUESTION: It would be a unifying factor then? ANSWER: I believe so.