Understanding September 1986
September, 1986 OUTER SPACE?
It has been said that, if one wishes to predict the future, one should begin by comparing the present with the past!
During the months since the tragic failure of the space shuttle flight, the U.S. Space Program has come to an almost complete halt, while we struggle with problems of safety and finance. Those who may become discouraged by these problems however, might well use this period to examine our progress in retrospect.
Looking backward, it seems that we have progressed at a tremendous rate during the past few decades. When we remember that it has been only 82 years since Orville and Wilbur Wright first managed to coax their 12 horsepower man-carrying box kite a few feet off the ground, for a flight time of 12 seconds, and a flight distance of 120 feet! Within the memory of a single generation we have created man-carrying satellites which hurtle completely around the earth every hour and a half. Moving at a speed above 18,000 miles per hour. We have created vehicles that have taken men safely to the Moon, and brought them safely back to earth. We have landed instrument packages on Mars and Venus and dispatched others that are now on their way completely out of our solar system, sending back thousands of pictures and masses of data concerning the planets that they pass.
Yet, if we consider the immensity of the space which we are challenging, we must certainly realize that the successes we have achieved to date are but the first few faltering steps of an infant beginning a journey that may well continue to infinity!
With the strong ego characteristic of earth man, we apply words and descriptive terms to our efforts, which are actually far from being applicable at the present time. For instance, we habitually refer to our orbital pilots as ‘astronauts’. The word astronaut means, literally: “One who sails among the stars.” Our orbital flights, in which we rise only a few miles above the surface of our planet, or even journey to our moon, are certainly a far cry from sailing among the stars, yet we use the word because it defines our future intent and determination. In the same manner, we have come to use the term ‘outer space’. In the science of astronomy, the term ‘outer space’ refers to the space between galaxies. The space between stars in a single galaxy is known as ‘inner space’. The space between a star and its planets would, therefore be known as ‘inner – inner space, and the space between a planet and its moons would be ‘inner – inner – inner space’. Yet, in our pride of achievement, whenever we have managed to rise a few miles above our own stratosphere, we proudly proclaim that we have ‘traveled in outer space’.
In the past 80 years we have increased the speed at which earth man could travel, about 500 times. (From about 40 miles per hour to more than 20,000.) If we continue to increase our rate of travel at the same rate for another 80 years, we will have achieved passenger velocities of 10 million miles peg hour , which would mean that a trip to Mars or Venus, when they were near the earth would require four or five hours including time for takeoff and landing. In the third eighty year period we should be approaching the ‘velocity of light barrier’, if we are to conquer this we must find a way to refuel our ship in flight, since no amount of fuel we could start out with could get us past that barrier. There will also be a few perplexing problems of time and space geometry to solve before earth-man can dream of leaving this galaxy and traveling for the first time in true outer space!
Many scientists will insist that even a trip to the nearest star is forever impossible to earthmen, but then, it is only a few years since the same number of scientists insisted that it was impossible for any earthman to reach the moon!
(signed Daniel W. Fry)
(hand written) The cataract surgery of 8/13/86 went perfectly + all is well. See you next month. Cleona Q.