National Geographic : 1956 Apr
509 Bell Telephone Laboratories Later Versions of This Solar Battery May Power Equipment in Satellites Our first orbiting spheres will carry small conventional batteries for radio transmission. More advanced satellites may use sunlight for power. Bell Telephone Laboratories pioneered the technique with their solar battery, shown atop a telephone pole near Americus, Georgia, where it gathered energy enough to transmit the human voice. The rectangular frame contains 432 silicon cells cushioned in oil and covered with glass. These cells convert light into electricity. A lineman adjusts the frame toward the sun. to see that a group of larger satellites would soon revolutionize the sciences of meteorology and climatology (page 498). Whatever we do with our satellites, they will be remembered as man's first step beyond the confines of the earth's atmosphere. These bold devices will pave the way for a distant goal: manned space flight. But serious problems must be solved first. For instance, a manned satellite might have to weigh almost as much in tons as our IGY "moon" will weigh in pounds. Imagine what rockets would be required to boost such a payload into space! Another tremendous problem will be that of bringing space trav elers back to earth without burning them up by turning their vehicles into glowing meteors. And these are purely technical difficulties. There is man himself. The human problems of space flight are going to be formidable. Manned satellites will require large-scale op erations in a complete vacuum. They will require human beings to live under conditions of weightlessness. They will, in short, se verely tax the endurance of man's body and mind. Animals Will Precede Man into Space In the important research area of space medicine, future satellites will be indispen sable tools of experimentation. They will carry small animals into space first, just as animals and not men have made the pioneer rides in existing research rockets. But no one is equipped to tell at this time when man himself will venture into space. Yet, whether we live to see it or not, we are now going ahead to prepare for this day. Like the modest satellites we have on our drawing boards, a big manned satellite will find its primary use as a research tool for advancement of the earth sciences. For a long time to come, our own planet will remain the prime goal of space flight.