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"Introduction to Outer Space"


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#1 Stephen Speicher

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Posted 04 January 2006 - 03:29 AM

Almost everyone knows that on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress, setting as a national goal the sending of an American to the Moon by the end of that decade. But hardly anyone has ever heard of a document that was prepared three years earlier for then President Dwight David Eisenhower, a document that set the tone for the future of space science.

Earlier, on October 4, 1957, Americans were stunned by the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I. And then, one month later on November 3rd the Soviets successfully launched an even larger satellite, Sputnik II, this one carrying a dog as passenger. America's Project Vanguard, not yet ready to deliver a satellite, had planned a payload not even equal to what the Soviets had already put in orbit. The Communists were first in orbiting a satellite, which hurt the American prestige, and it also engendered a near-hysterical United States response: If the Soviets could launch satellites then perhaps they could launch ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons.

These events initiated a national debate about the need for a space agency, and between the time of these satellite launchings and the July 1958 passage of the Space Act, one single document helped both the government and the people in preparing the way.

On March 26, 1958, a pamphlet prepared by the President's Science Advisory Committee was made available to the public for the price of 15 cents. This "Introduction to Outer Space" was geared to the non-technical audience, and in a prefacing statement Eisenhower himself acknowledged that "This is not science fiction. This is a sober, realistic presentation ..." I am not sure if anyone knows the exact number of pamphlets printed, but it is known that the pamphlet was wildly successful.

"Introduction to Outer Space" can be purchased through used book sources, but a copy of the actual pamphlet has been made available for reading right here. This projection of possibilities, both short- and long-range, makes for fascinating reading. To set the right context, keep in mind that when the authors refer to "today's rugged and tiny electronic equipment," radios and televisions were built with vacuum tubes, and transistors and printed circuits would be first introduced into computers the following year!

Few people know that the great scientist and inventor Edwin H. Land (The "Polaroid" Land of whom I have written about referencing his scientific work on color perception) was quite influential on Eisenhower's perspective on science, and Land himself was one of the three main writers of "Introduction to Outer Space." Land heavily influenced the overall tone and spirit of the pamphlet. It is interesting to note the following from the opening remarks in the pamphlet: "The first of these factors is the compelling urge of man to explore and to discover, the thrust of curiosity that leads men to try to go where no one has gone before." Eisenhower had said in his statement that this was "not science fiction," and he was right. However, a certain very popular science fiction TV show from 1966 had opening remarks reminiscent of what was said in this pamphlet. :o
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#2 Paul's Here

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Posted 05 January 2006 - 05:54 PM

Almost everyone knows that on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress, setting as a national goal the sending of an American to the Moon by the end of that decade. But hardly anyone has ever heard of a document that was prepared three years earlier for then President Dwight David Eisenhower, a document that set the tone for the future of space science.

Earlier, on October 4, 1957, Americans were stunned by the Soviet Union's launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I. And then, one month later on November 3rd the Soviets successfully launched an even larger satellite, Sputnik II, this one carrying a dog as passenger. America's Project Vanguard, not yet ready to deliver a satellite, had planned a payload not even equal to what the Soviets had already put in orbit. The Communists were first in orbiting a satellite, which hurt the American prestige, and it also engendered a near-hysterical United States response: If the Soviets could launch satellites then perhaps they could launch ballistic missiles carrying nuclear weapons.

These events initiated a national debate about the need for a space agency, and between the time of these satellite launchings and the July 1958 passage of the Space Act, one single document helped both the government and the people in preparing the way.

On March 26, 1958, a pamphlet prepared by the President's Science Advisory Committee was made available to the public for the price of 15 cents. This "Introduction to Outer Space" was geared to the non-technical audience, and in a prefacing statement Eisenhower himself acknowledged that "This is not science fiction. This is a sober, realistic presentation ..." I am not sure if anyone knows the exact number of pamphlets printed, but it is known that the pamphlet was wildly successful. 

"Introduction to Outer Space" can be purchased through used book sources, but a copy of the actual pamphlet has been made available for reading right here.  This projection of possibilities, both short- and long-range, makes for fascinating reading. To set the right context, keep in mind that when the authors refer to "today's rugged and tiny electronic equipment," radios and televisions were built with vacuum tubes, and transistors and printed circuits would be first introduced into computers the following year!

Few people know that the great scientist and inventor Edwin H. Land (The "Polaroid" Land of whom I have written about referencing his scientific work on color perception) was quite influential on Eisenhower's perspective on science, and Land himself was one of the three main writers of "Introduction to Outer Space." Land heavily influenced the overall tone and spirit of the pamphlet. It is interesting to note the following from the opening remarks in the pamphlet: "The first of these factors is the compelling urge of man to explore and to discover, the thrust of curiosity that leads men to try to go where no one has gone before." Eisenhower had said in his statement that this was "not science fiction," and he was right. However, a certain very popular science fiction TV show from 1966 had opening remarks reminiscent of what was said in this pamphlet.      :o

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Very interesting historical information. Beam me up, Scotty!!
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It is my ears which hear,
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