National Geographic : 1957 Dec
How Man-made Satellites Can Affect Our Lives BY JOSEPH KAPLAN, PH.D., D.Sc. Chairman, United States National Committee for the International Geophysical Year Dr. Kaplan, Professor of Physics at the University of California at Los Angeles, is outstandingly qualified to discuss satellites. On behalf of the National Academy of Sciences, he supervises all United States participation in the International Geophysical Year. He is also a member of the IGY Technical Panels on Rocketry and the Earth Satellite Program, and has for decades been interested in the problems that satellites are expected to help us solve. One of the world's most distinguished geophysicists, he has headed the Mixed Committee on the Upper Atmosphere of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics, and is the new President of the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy. Despite the great range of his interests and honors, Dr. Kaplan says that what he likes best is teaching elementary physics to undergraduates whose main interest is not science.-The Editor. EARLY in October TV and radio brought you some unearthly music you had never heard before-a series of high pitched notes in subtly varying rhythms, each note distinctly clear and crisp, sounding a little like a one-note xylophone. What you heard was the music of a sphere, and a most extraordinary sphere at that. It came from the pioneering artificial satel lite, the first thing made by man to become a true celestial body and circle our globe in a predictable orbit. Perhaps you've even been out satellite-watching and have followed the telltale spot of brightness in the twilight of dawn or dusk. The first satellite, launched by Soviet scien tists in connection with the International Geo physical Year, was one of a group designed to do essentially the same job as the satellites to be sent aloft as part of the IGY effort of United States scientists.* Since I have been concerned with the U. S. satellite program 11-ton Rocket Blasts Off into Purple Dawn 4 Carrying a Satellite in Its Nose This painting depicts one of six scheduled satellite launchings to be made at Patrick Air Force Missile Test Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The thin blue streak on the horizon is the Atlantic. Suggesting an enormous nickel-plated cartridge, the three-stage rocket roars up from the launching plat form. Steam, caused by white-hot exhaust striking the platform's water cooling system, lingers at left. The eight-story gantry crane that erected and serv iced the missile has rolled back on its track. Boat shaped blockhouse shields launching controls. Within 10 minutes the satellite will swing into its orbit, 300 miles above the earth (next two pages). The dramatic paintings on the following pages are the work of National Geographic artists, who spent months in painstaking research to picture scenes man as yet can only imagine. Leaders of the United States National Committee for the IGY gave valuable counsel on rocketry and astrophysics. © National Geographic Society from its beginning, I want to stress that what follows applies specifically to U. S.-built satel lites, but in general to Soviet-built satellites as well.f In view of the great tasks planned for them, these remarkable objects are surprisingly small, measuring less than two feet in diameter -about the size of a library globe. (In fact, the test spheres scheduled to precede the full size U. S. satellite measure only 6.4 inches in diameter.) Nevertheless these shining metal balls may well represent humanity's most far-reaching scientific achievement in a century. They already symbolize one of history's boldest exploratory ventures-and promise to bring before long benefits to be felt throughout the world. Space Holds Answers to Basic Problems Rather emphatic statements, these, and you may well ask, how so? Why do we want artificial satellites in the first place? Just what will they do up there, flitting by hun dreds of miles above us, and how can they help us in our day-to-day lives down here? One might answer that satellites can teach us much about the most fundamental prob lems of science. A lot of the clues we want in physics, geophysics, and astrophysics, for example, and in meteorology and astronomy - c an be found only up where satellites will be, or can be gathered better up there. On the strictly practical side the data pro vided by satellites will enable us to improve many things we already possess, such as radio and television communications; satellites will also help us along on the road to achieving * See "The International Geophysical Year: Man's Most Ambitious Study of His Environment," by Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1956. t See "Space Satellites, Tools of Earth Research," by Dr. Heinz Haber, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE, April, 1956.