A fascinating look at the space race and what the future held, written in 1959.
The article, reprinted by Forbes, is amazingly detailed, optimistic, yet also cool-headed about the future. For example, consider this quote about the future of manned spaceflight:
NASA has ordered from the Rocketdyne Division of North American Aviation a rocket engine with as much thrust in its single chamber as all eight Rocketdyne engines going into Saturn. Glennan has estimated that the gargantuan engine will have cost over $200 million before it is ready for its first flight in 1963. A second effort, almost as costly as this engine, is the highly publicized Project Mercury, aimed at sending a man in a capsule on a few trips around the earth. This is a first that NASA does not have much hope of winning. NASA cannot have its astronauts trained and its recovery techniques perfected much before 1961, and a Russian will doubtless be out there before that. [emphasis mine]
The author also discusses planned probes to the Moon and Venus, the effort to develop new powerful rockets and their engines, and even ion engines!
What I find most fascinating about this article, however, is how it reveals the seeds of the future American Soviet-style big government space program that would dominate American space exploration for the next half century. At the time this was written, American society normally left this kind of activity to private enterprise. The author himself assumes that any future work in space will be designed and built by private companies, and that is where his focus is when he discusses the ongoing efforts in 1959 to get the United States into space.
At the same time, however, he does not seem to believe that is possible for private enterprise to run the show.
Space operations require the creation of larger industrial complexes than ever before worked together in peacetime.
Though he assumes almost all design and construction will be done by private companies, competing against each other for government and private contracts, he also expects the work to be coordinated and supervised by the government. Sadly, that assumption, common then and even now, eventually led to NASA being in charge, with private enterprise ceasing its effort to compete for the profits that space potentially holds.
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