National Geographic : 1957 Apr
580 Ithcert F'. Si.I . Rocket's 80-mile Plunge from the Ionosphere Left This Battered Hulk Engineers rigged a parachute in the head of the Aerobee, hoping to save the instrument-carrying nose cone. However, the missile head, too heavy for the chute, crashed on the Holloman firing range in New Mexico. These Air Force men flew in by helicopter to recover the wreckage. Mist dims the distant peaks. can tell if it's coming toward you," said a cameraman comfortingly. As I listened to the count-down, I looked for shelter and edged toward a heavy Dodge truck. "... Minus one .. .zero!" The rocket belched flame, seemingly in silence. A second later its rupturing blast reached me. Now it streaked skyward, trail ing ominous black smoke. Yes, the camera man was right. It seemed to be right above me. Seemed to be? Suddenly I realized it really was above me. I glanced quickly at the man beside me. looking for signs of alarm. At that instant he shouted, "Hit the dirt! It's coming down!" I looked up again in near panic. I couldn't see the rocket. but its increasing roar left no doubt that it was coming down, and fast. I threw myself under the truck and found others there ahead of me. Seconds passed as the rocket screamed earthward...a terrifying explosion...then silence. The rocket had landed about 400 yards to our rear. I looked out from under the truck to see a cloud of dust and smoke floating away in the morning breeze-the end of Jursa's spec trograph, the end of Nidey's Sun Seeker, the end of months of work and planning. Rocket's Death Only a Temporary Defeat Shocked with sympathy, I met them com ing out of the blockhouse. Strangely, they didn't seem as upset as I was. "We have to live with this," said Jursa. "We know it can happen." "What now? Will you abandon the ex periment?" I asked. And the answer I got is eloquent testimony to the tenacity and inflexible determination of the scientists who probe the secrets of the earth's atmosphere. "No. We'll start building new instruments. Perhaps we'll be ready again in six or seven months."