Flight through Outer Space
When the flying saucer scare started, in 1947, few reputable astronomers publicly admitted a chance for interstellar space flight. But there has been a gradual change in the last two or three years. One proof of this came in February, 1951, when Dr. William Markowitz, a Naval Observatory astronomer, discovered a strange object in our solar system.
The day after the discovery Thomas R. Henry, the conservative science editor of the Washington Star, discussed the object with Dr. Markowitz and other Naval Observatory astronomers. In an article based on their views, Mr. Henry made this statement:
"Although highly improbable, the possibility cannot be denied that the new-found object is a space ship launched from some planet outside the solar system."
Later Dr. Markowitz concluded that the strange object was a peculiar type of asteroid with a unique orbit. But the fact remains that experienced astronomers and a careful science editor admitted the possibility of interstellar flight.
Other prominent astronomers have now publicly stated that the universe may hold many inhabited planets. One of these is Dr. Carl F. von Weizacker, noted University of Chicago astrophysicist.
"Billions upon billions of stars," Dr. von Weizacker has said, "may each have their own planets revolving about them. It is possible that these planets would have animal and plant life on them similar to the earths."
Our progress toward space travel has changed the minds of many engineers and scientists who once called this a fantastic dream. We have made long strides since the pioneering rocket tests of Dr. Robert H. Goddard which began back in the twenties. Most of this progress has been made in the last five years. Perhaps it was only coincidence, but our intensive drive for space travel did not begin until after the first flood of saucer reports.
Within a few months the Defense Department mapped serious plans for a moon rocket and an artificial satellite. In 1948 Secretary James Forrestal publicly announced the first steps.
"The Earth Satellite Vehicle Program, which is being carried out independently by each military service, has been assigned to the Committee on Guided Missiles for coordination. . . . Well-defined areas of research have been allocated to each of the three military departments."
Another hint of the government's interest was given by General Curtis Le May, when he asked Congress for Air Force research funds covering these items: "Flight and survival equipment for ultra-atmospheric operations, including space vehicles, space bases, and devices for use therein."
We are still several years from our first space flight. While a moon rocket could be built now, it would be a crude device compared with the space ships which have been planned. One reason is that we are waiting for atomic power. Also, rocket designers have almost outstripped the research scientists. This was frankly admitted last February by the chief of the rocket section at the Naval Research Laboratory.
"Present plans for space travel," he said, "and designs for space ships are based on a meager store of scientific
knowledge. Before we can attempt to transport human beings in a ship, we must produce a practical, reliable, unmanned satellite. To do this we need better, more efficient rocket power plants . . .
"We need more research on fuels, on high-temperature metals, and methods for cooling the inner walls of rocket motors and the outer skins of high-speed airframes."
However, we have learned some of the answers, using improved V-2s and other rockets. Powered by liquid fuels, a Wac-Corporal unit, fired at high altitude from the nose of a V-2, has climbed about 250 miles, reaching a speed of 5,000 m.p.h. Eventually rockets driven by atomic-powered jets, or perhaps a now-unknown propulsion system, will escape the earth's gravity and fly into free space.
In the frigid cold of the earth's shadow, space-ship cabins will have to be heated. But in sunlight, crews will have to be protected from the intense solar heat: even in our supersonic test planes, which fly at less than 100,000 feet, cockpits must be air-cooled. To safeguard crews in airless space, a balance must be found between the extreme cold on the shaded side of a ship and the tremendous solar heat on the exposed side. Methods now considered include combinations of black and white painting, and a slow, controlled rotation of the entire space ship.
Already, chemical air-purifying systems have been planned for crew compartments. Tests indicate that crews and passengers will breathe oxygen and helium, eliminating the danger from nitrogen bubbles.
After scores of rocket flights, engineers have developed complicated control and recording instruments which withstand the shock of terrific acceleration. The first crude inertial controls of the V-2 have been replaced by new devices which detect the slightest variation in speed. Gyroscopes a thousand times more accurate than those used in aircraft are ready for space-ship use, and automatic navigation equipment designed for guided missiles is being adapted for space rockets.
To learn what human beings can stand in space, Air Force and Navy space-medicine experts have made hundreds of tests. One series, made with the Air Force decelerator sled at Muroc Air Force Base, shows that humans can stand far more gs than was once believed. (One g is the normal pull of gravity.)
In these tests the G-sled, driven by rockets down a 2,000-foot track, swiftly reaches a top speed of almost 200 miles an hour. Near the end of the track it is halted by a powerful braking system—or, in the latest type, by a scoop lowered into a trough of water. When stopped in the shortest possible time, the force produced is at least 50 gs.
Major John P. Stapp, Air Force medical officer in charge of the tests, has taken 45 gs, facing forward on the sled. An even higher number can be taken by a human guinea pig facing backward during the abrupt stop.
"The highest tolerance has not yet been reached," says Major Stapp. "I believe it is much greater than ordinarily thought possible."
More exact tests are now being made with a centrifuge— a cockpit like chamber whirled at the end of a long trussed beam. During these experiments a pilot's reactions are automatically photographed; they can also be relayed by television to a control room. By timing him as he works out various problems, at different rotation speeds, observers learn how many gs he can take without mental lag and confusion.
It has been found that a pilot lying prone in the centrifuge can take four to five gs for almost ten minutes, and this is the average force expected in a space-ship take-off.
More elaborate centrifuges, simulating control and navigation rooms of space ships, have already been planned. Crews will be trained, under varying gs, in every step from take-off to navigating in free space, before they make their first flight.
Actual tests with mice and monkeys have shown what our spacemen can expect during launchings and even in
free space. Some of the details have been supplied to me from the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Field.
Monkeys, enclosed in "capsules" with an oxygen supply, were fitted with medical instruments to show blood pressure, heartbeat, and rate of breathing. During the upward flight automatic radio equipment signaled all changes to Aero Medical men on the ground and no unusual effects were noted.
All the monkeys lived through the ascent to maximum altitude, but four were killed when their parachutes failed. The fifth landed safely, still enclosed in its capsule, but died from the desert heat before it could be found.
These experiments also showed Aero Medical men the effects of "zero gravity" or weightlessness, which spacemen will encounter when they escape the pull of the earth. One test, automatically photographed, showed the mice floating in their rotating drum, as the rocket started back to earth. For two or three minutes the rocket's downward speed equaled the pull of gravity, so that the mice were weightless.
When they were examined, after parachutes landed their drum, they showed no ill effects from having been "gravity free." Also, the photographs showed that a normal mouse was as much at ease inverted as when standing upright.
Probably humans will suffer no more serious effects, but there will be several odd complications, perhaps some uncomfortable sensations.
Once a spaceman is weightless, any careless movement may send him bumping into hard objects—falling upward, sidewise, or sailing the length of his compartment. If he raises his hand suddenly to scratch his nose, the lack of gravity resistance may result in a knockout blow—or at least a disconcerting jolt.
When he breathes, the exhaled carbon dioxide will stay in front of his face, to be breathed in again, unless the
air is constantly circulated. Because the human body is a closed system—unlike a plant—spacemen will be able to eat and drink without gravity. But drinking, for example, will not be simple. If a space-ship passenger spilled milk from an ordinary glass, the liquid would be suspended in mid-air. To prevent this, spacemen will probably use nippled bags.
Likewise, any loose object—a knife, fork, dish, or anything not fastened down—will float wherever it is placed. Frequently used equipment will have to be secured with clamps, or magnetized to cling to metal sections. Ordinarily sharp objects, like eating utensils, will have to have rounded tips or edges to prevent accidental stabs or cuts.
Just how long our future spacemen can endure the weightless state is a question. It may produce effects which will require designers to create an artificial gravity.
By putting jet planes into a "ballistics trajectory"—a course slowly but continually moving downward, like a falling shell—space-medicine researchers have been able to get "zero gravity" for up to 30 seconds. Pilots and crewmen in this weightless condition have described uncomfortable sensations, although they could think clearly.
On long space flights, this unnatural state may become mentally unbearable, even if it does not cause actual "space sickness."
There may be several ways of creating artificial gravity so that our spacemen will feel normal even in outer space. One way, suggested by Dr. J. C. Bellamy in 1950, would be to build a rotating space ship. Since then the same idea has been explored by Dr. Wernther von Braun, creator of the V-2, and also scientists of the British Interplanetary Society.
This type of space ship, which the English call the 'living wheel," would consist of a huge spoked device with crew's quarters in the hollow rim. The centrifugal force caused by rotation would provide an artificial gravity, so that crewmen would walk normally on a curved floor at right angles to the hub of the wheel.
Before large space ships can be built, we must produce some light-weight, heat-resistant metal. It may be an alloy combining the lightness of titanium, a silver-gray metal now mined near Quebec, with a heat-resistant metal similar to rhenium. Or some now-unknown alloy may be discovered before space ships go into production.
Judging from present progress, the first satellite will be launched in less than five years. It may be a two- or three-stage rocket, fired from a desert base, or it may be carried aloft by a giant jet transport, to give it an initial take-off speed with less fuel waste.
In either case it will be guided—by ground trackers or by robot controls—into its preselected orbit around the earth. As it circles the globe, automatic radio and television transmitters will relay information to Ground Control, showing various instrument readings and also pictures of the earth taken from the rocket.
After a time the satellite may be brought down gradually to lower altitudes, to see how slowly a space ship must reenter our atmosphere without dangerous overheating.
On a later test flight, if not the first, probably monkeys and mice will be sent up in capsules or drums, with automatic devices attached to signal physical reactions to Ground Control. During gravity-free flight, some animals might be released into a larger space, so that ground observers could watch the results of prolonged weightlessness.
When everything possible has been learned from these tests, the first manned satellite will take off.
For the first few minutes the crewmen will lie strapped on their G-couches, while robot controls guide the space ship upward. At the selected altitude either the robot or the crewmen will turn the ship into its orbit, where it will coast endlessly until a landing is desired.
If von Braun's plan is followed, the satellite will circle the globe every two hours, at right angles to the earth's axis. On each circuit, radar and telescopes will be able to scan a strip about 1,000 miles wide. By circling at right
angles to the earth's rotation, every spot on the globe will be observed during a 24-hour period.
In case of war, guided H-bomb missiles could be launched from this base and aimed by radar at any target on earth. The space base could also serve as a control-point for long-range missiles launched from the earth itself.
But the satellite's peacetime uses will be equally important. At this airless height astronomers will be able to see the stars more clearly; new discoveries about the universe will soon follow. Crews can warn the earth of approaching hurricanes and send data for accurate weather forecasting.
Living aboard for days, weeks, perhaps months, the crew will learn many things of value in planning long space flights. It will be a strange existence, even though radio and television programs will give crewmen a comforting contact with the earth.
There will be one danger—that a meteor might penetrate the sealed ship. Tiny meteors, speck-size, will vaporize on the "meteor bumper"—a thin, metallic nose shield-even though they hit at a speed of from 20 to 50 miles per second. The larger types, which are rare, would tear through the double walls—even a meteor half an inch in diameter could penetrate the cabin. Crews will be trained to throw emergency patches over such a hole and to rebuild cabin pressure swiftly, meantime using their space suits' oxygen supply.
However, astronomers have calculated that such disasters would be very unlikely—a space ship would probably travel for months without being endangered. Meteor showers will be plotted in advance to avoid extra hazard and once a space ship is in free space radar is expected to give warning of any dangerous object that may be approaching. It will take only an infinitely small change in course, probably automatic, to miss a collision.
After a satellite has been operated long enough to give crewmen experience, the next step will be a flight to the
moon. A new type of propulsion may make it possible to launch a manned rocket directly from the earth. But at present, von Braun and other rocket experts expect to construct space ships at satellite bases, with all the materials, fuel, and supplies carried up from the earth in three-stage freight rockets.
Actual construction will be done by engineers in space suits, already tested by the Air Force and the Navy. Floating in space, they will assemble the prefabricated ships, using reaction-flasks of carbon dioxide to push them from one spot to another.
Because of the moon's short distance from us, about 239,000 miles, the flight will be relatively easy. The first trip may be only a mapping expedition, by camera, radar, and visual observation. Or the crew may first make these checks and then land.
For the landing the crew will turn the ship around, descending stern-first. Once in this position, they will let down slowly, by a gradual decrease in jet thrust. Since the moon has no atmosphere, there will be no air resistance to heat up the ship.
Using space suits, the pioneers will set up a small base and make radio contact with the earth. Crews from other ships will later expand the base. Underground, air-conditioned shelters will be built as a protection against the daytime heat and the minus 214 degrees cold of the long moon night. Atomic furnaces will probably be used to supply heat, power, and light, as space-freighters bring in equipment, furnishings, and food from the earth.
The moon base will be doubly important. Guided missiles could be launched easily because of the moon's small gravity—only one sixth that of the earth. Once in free space, they could be guided by radar to any target on our globe. And because of the moon's small gravity, it will be a main take-off base for interplanetary flights. By taking on just enough fuel for a moon flight, space ships leaving the earth can carry larger loads of passengers and supplies.
When they reach the moon, they can take on a full fuel load, and still take off easily, with the moon's pull only one sixth that of the earth.
Unlike the earth-moon trip, flights to other planets will involve complicated navigation. Mechanical brains, like the present Goodyear L-3 GEDA, will work out the course, figuring when and where to intercept the target planet's orbit.
Probably Mars will be first solar planet to be explored. At its nearest approach, Mars is 35 million miles from the earth. Venus, at its nearest, is closer—25 million miles. But Mars, according to many astronomers, is the most likely to have intelligent life, and several peculiar incidents in the last three years seem to increase the probability.
The most important evidence is linked with the mysterious explosion on Mars in 1949. The strange blast was seen on December 9 by the noted Japanese astronomer, Tsuneo Saheki. Since Saheki has specialized in observing Mars since 1933, his report carried weight with world scientists.
According to Saheki, the explosion caused a brilliant glow for several minutes. This was followed by a luminous yellowish-gray cloud 40 miles high and 700 miles in diameter. After ruling out all other explanations, Saheki suggested it had been an atomic explosion.
Such a blast could be from two causes, Saheki said—a volcanic eruption or an artificial atomic explosion. If the latter, then it could only have been set off by highly advanced beings. In this case it could have been a test of some atomic weapon even more powerful than the H bomb —or it could have been an accident.
If it was an artificial explosion, there are three possibilities. It might have been caused by a Martian race; a race from another planet could have settled on Mars recently; or spacemen from outside our solar system might be using Mars as an operating base during their investigation of the earth.
Since the 1949 explosion, strange blue clouds have been seen above Mars by Walter H. Haas, director of the Society of Lunar and Planetary Observers—also by other astronomers. The cause of the clouds is a mystery.
Beside this recent activity, there are other unanswered questions about Mars. The most important concerns the long-disputed canali on the red planet, discovered by Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877. Though Schiaparelli did not claim these "channels" were artificial, he did not deny the possibility that they were canals built to link the melting polar icecaps with water-starved areas on Mars.
Since then, many scientists have accepted this answer, among them Percival Lowell, who established Lowell Observatory in Arizona and studied the red planet for over 30 years. During this time Lowell discovered a precise network of over 600 canali—which he was convinced were waterways. Lowell's theory, stated in his three books,* was that Mars is a dying planet, with the melting icecaps it’s only remaining source of water. The Martians, Lowell believed, had built the canal network and a series of pumping stations in a gradually losing battle to perpetuate their race.
In addition to this, several astronomers have reported seeing odd geometrical symbols on Mars. To be visible from the earth, they would have to be gigantic. The most logical explanation is that the Martians were attempting to signal the nearest inhabited planet, perhaps in the hope of being saved from their slowly approaching doom. But even the existence of the symbols is denied by many competent observers.
However, the possibility that Mars is inhabited—at least temporarily—is serious enough to make it the first one explored.
During the flight robot calculators and automatic star-trackers will keep the ship on course. And by the time a
* Mars and Its Canals; Mars as the Abode of Life; The Evolution of Worlds.
Mars voyage is possible; a new method of navigation should be practical—radio astronomy.
In the last few years’ astronomers using radio-telescopes —giant parabolic reflectors with amplifying systems—have been hearing mysterious radio "signals" from the Milky Way and beyond. Their source is unknown.
At first scientists believed the peculiar transmissions came from hot objects of great magnitude, which they named "radio stars." But astronomers have been unable to identify them with any luminous objects.
In a recent report Dr. Grote Reber, Bureau of Standards authority on cosmic radiation, stated that such powerful radio waves could not be caused by any star, or group of stars'. He admitted he was puzzled by the signals, which combine to form an odd hissing sound.
"These mysterious radio transmissions," said Dr. Reber, "are one of the biggest questions in science today. We're not sure of their origin or what they mean."
In England two British scientists, Drs. R. Hanbury Brown and C. Hazard, have tracked some of the signals to the galaxy Andromeda. But like Dr. Reber, they do not attempt to explain the meaning, though they believe some unknown phenomenon may be the cause.
Inevitably, it has been suggested that the signals may be "scrambled" messages between inhabited planets, or between some planet and its space ships. It is also possible that some of the signals come from interplanetary navigation beacons fixed in space, or located on small celestial bodies which our telescopes will not pick up.
Message-scrambling is a familiar practice here on earth, but though Bureau of Standards scientists have recorded the signals on tape, no one has been able to separate the strange hissing into code or intelligible sounds.
So far, about 200 signal sources have been located in space. Whether natural or artificial, their locations are so precise that they could be used for accurate cross-bearings. Our future spacemen will undoubtedly use the signals to
check their courses, especially on long flights such as the journey to Mars.
As our first space ship to Mars swings into the red planet's orbit, its crew will begin long-range observations with telescopes and radar. If it seems to be inhabited, they would have to make a cautious survey before getting too close.
Either the crew will launch one or more small manned craft, or they will send down remote-control devices with cameras and television "eyes," such as we now use in radio-controlled drones. Meantime, radiomen on the ship will listen in for voice or code transmissions from Mars. If any are heard, the crew will record them and try to decipher their meaning.
To avoid alarming the Martians, the explorers would at first keep their observer units at a fairly high altitude. If they were not fired on or chased by Martian aircraft, the crew would begin a lower-altitude survey. In this preliminary check they would naturally photograph or televise any aircraft or space-ship bases, the planet's defenses, cities, and industries.
If Martian pilots tried to intercept the observer units with ordinary aircraft, the units could be easily maneuvered out of danger by remote control. But if the Martians also had space ships, the earth crew would have to retrieve its units—or possibly abandon them—and escape into outer space. Later they might steal back for night observations by radar and infrared devices.
After this first survey, the space-ship crew might return to the earth, or they might remain in Mars' orbit and report their discovery by radio. If the Martians seemed to be a possible menace to the earth, other space ships might be sent for a check-up en masse.
Provided the Martians did not have space ships, the explorers from earth could land on Mars' two small moons and set up operating bases. The outer moon, Deimos, is about 10 miles in diameter, while Phobos, the nearer one,
is a little larger. Their small size and lack of gravity would create problems, but they might serve as temporary bases.
It might take a long time to survey all the important areas of Mars. Deciphering their radio signals—assuming there were any—might take even longer, especially if broadcasts were in several different languages like those on earth. Because of this, a steady surveillance might go on for several years, before we could be sure of the Martians' reaction to our space ships.
If the long survey showed they were not hostile and that they were beings of a type we wished to know, we would undoubtedly prepare for contact. The first step would probably be an attempt at communication by radio, light signals, or by dropping messages.
It could take months to make our aims understood, and it might be impossible. Even if normally peaceful, the Martians might be terrified by our space ships; fearing invasion, they could interpret our peaceful messages as trickery and resist any attempt at landing. Or, after landings, our possible difference in appearance might set off panic and cause a desperate attack. In the end we might have to give up all efforts at conciliation and leave the Martians to their own devices.
Our explorers, of course, might find the Martians a dangerously hostile race. If our civilization were far ahead of theirs, we could still leave them alone, with safety. But if they had atomic weapons and space ships, or were nearing this stage, the earth governments would face a fateful decision.
They could try to avert interplanetary war by displaying our advanced space weapons, at the same time offering peaceful cooperation. If this were refused, they could bomb the Martian space bases and atomic weapon plants and end the threat.
The same program, with the same chances for peace or war, would apply to Venus, other solar-system planets, and possibly to planets of the nearest star systems.
How long it will take to fly to Mars, Venus, and other
planets is still conjecture. The distances are known, but the propulsion method is not. With liquid fuels, now used in rockets, some space-travel planners figure on a speed of 25,000 miles an hour. High as this may sound; it is far too low for space travel on a large scale. A round trip to Mars would take about three years, including an enforced stopover—a space-ship crew would have to wait until the earth was in the proper position before taking off for the long trip back.
Eventually, atomic-energy propulsion, mass conversion of energy, the use of electromagnetic fields, or some now-unknown method will make it possible to accelerate to fantastic speeds. Once in free space, where there is no resistance, a space ship can—theoretically—approach the speed of light, which is 186,000 miles per second. A few scientists believe even this is not the limit; Blarney Stevens, in his "Identity Theory," presents a reasoned case for higher speeds. But most prominent scientists accept Einstein's formula which sets the speed-of-light limit.
Though it may take centuries, many space planners believe we—or rather our descendants—will some day get close to the speed of light in the longer space voyages. Even at one half this speed trips within our solar system would become amazingly short.
But flights to stars outside our solar system, even at almost the speed of light, would take many years—unless Einstein's theory of special relativity provides a loophole, as some scientists believe. Alpha Centauri, for example, is 4.29 light-years from the earth; a round trip, without stopping or allowing time to accelerate and decelerate, would take 8.58 years. A one-way trip to Wolf 359, which was mentioned in the 1949 Project Sign report, would take over eight years, including acceleration time. Even longer periods would be required to reach other "nearby" stars, including Sirius, 9.11 light-years distant; Alpha Canis Minoris, 10.22; and Kruger 60, which is 12.62 light-years away.
There are a dozen other bright stars within this time
range. At least two, the binary stars 61 Cygni and 70 Ophiuchi, are known to have planets. Possibly one of them, or a planet revolving around one of the other stars, may have intelligent life equal—or even superior—to our own.
But the very thought of such long flights is appalling in terms of our life span. An earthling of 24 would return from Wolf 359 a middle-aged man, a stranger to his own globe. A traveler to Kruger 60 would spend over 25 years in space before he returned home.
Many years ago Magellan and his crew spent lonely years circumnavigating the globe. But they could break the monotony, dropping anchor in sheltered harbors. Few people on earth would accept unbroken years in space, even if they were sure of a safe return.
However, Einstein's theory of special relativity does provide a loophole. It is known as the "time dilatation factor." According to this theory, a space ship's travel time would shrink as it approached the speed of light, and the actual elapsed time would be far less than that at the point of departure.
Incredible as it may seem, the theory of time dilatation is accepted by numerous reputable scientists and space-travel planners. Other scientists, including Dr. Menzel, agree to the theory for one-way space flight, but insist that the return trip offsets the shrinkage in time.
One of the most thorough discussions of time dilatation may be found in the July, 1952, issue of the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society. It was written by Dr. L. R. Shepherd, the society's technical director and one of England's leading scientists.
After stating the formula involved, Dr. Shepherd adds that the time dilatation effect has been proved experimentally by observations on m-mesons passing through the earth's atmosphere.
To illustrate the principle, Dr. Shepherd assumes that a traveler, X, makes a round trip to Procyon, 10.4 light-years from the earth, while an observer, Y, remains here
to record the elapsed time. To simplify matters, Dr. Shepherd makes this a nonstop-trip and also disregards time for acceleration and deceleration—on such a long voyage they would not be important factors.
For this space trip Dr. Shepherd uses a travel velocity of .990 c (the speed of light). In this case, as he shows by the formula of special relativity, the time recorded by X is one seventh of that measured by Y, the earth observer.
As a result, says Dr. Shepherd, Y records X's return 21 years later, while to X the elapsed time is only three years. Unfortunately, as Dr. Shepherd admits, X's family and all his friends would be 18 years older than he was. Except for this, time dilatation would seem to be an encouraging factor leading to eventual long-range space travel.
Utterly fantastic though it may sound, time dilatation may be proved in some far-distant space flight—just as Einstein's much-maligned early formula, E = mc2, was finally proved true that fateful day at Alamogordo, when the first A bomb was exploded.
If it proves a fallacy, then only a greatly increased life span will make it possible for earthlings to reach the far-distant stars. Journeys to our neighboring star system will not be impossible for determined explorers, but the long years involved would be a barrier to regular flights . . .
When I finished this summary of our own space-travel plans, one fact stood out clearly. If we had come this far in the ten years since the first V-2 rocket, some other race with an earlier civilization could long ago have passed this point.
Reversing the picture of our own space-travel plans indicated several obvious facts. This unknown race had solved all the technical problems of propulsion, heat-resistant metals, and cabin-conditioning of whatever atmosphere they breathed.
From the precise survey operations of the discs, it was clear that these space beings had perfected remote control.
There was also evidence that they had equipped the discs with some types of television scanners or cameras or both. And judging from reports by Controller Harry Barnes and other trained observers, whoever guided the discs could hear and understand our radio transmissions.
In navigation these outer-space creatures probably had developed radio astronomy to a high point, using the mysterious transmissions we had heard for accurate triangulations.
If by any chance the discs were piloted, then these beings were entirely different from earthlings—able to withstand tremendous g-forces that would kill a human. Regardless of that, it was plain they were highly trained, super intelligent creatures able to plan and carry out a long survey of a strange planet apparently without mishap. From the manner in which the survey had been conducted, perhaps they had had experience in exploring other inhabited planets.
Reversing the expected reactions of Martians indicated the probable thinking of these unknown space beings. If they used humanlike logic, they would make exactly this kind of reconnaissance. Their aims, like ours in any future exploration of an inhabited planet, would be to learn what the earth race was like, how far we were advanced scientifically, and whether or not we could menace them in any way. After that they would decide on the next step.
And there I began to run into a blind alley.
There were several possible motives for the saucer reconnaissance, but none stood out as the probable answer. To narrow it down I would have to dig deeper.
Since the Air Force denied any idea of the motives, the only way was to search for clues in all the authentic sighting cases. I had already analyzed them as to saucer types, methods of operation, and certain other items. But a new check, searching mainly for the purpose, might turn up something I'd overlooked.
The cases were laid out on my desk, and I was about to start work, when the phone rang. It was Jim Riordan.
"Have you read See's interview with General Samford?" he asked me.
"I saw the AP story on it," I said. "But the Air Force is a little sore about that article. Chop told me they didn't interview General Samford directly—it was supposed to be labeled a hypothetical interview based on public statements he'd made."
"Well," said Riordan, "it gives the impression the Air Force is starting to plant the outer-space idea."
"Some Air Force people think the evidence should be given out," I told him. "But they don't want it hung on Samford this way."
"I get it," said Riordan. "Look, you said you'd show me some other ATIC reports. When can we get together?"
"It just happens I've got them out on my desk. How about tonight around 8?"
"That's OK, I’ll see you then," said Riordan.
After he hung up, I read over the AP story on See's article:
"The Air Force says it has no evidence that beings from some other world have visited this planet. But the Air Force also says it would be unreasonable to deny that such a thing could happen. The Air Force released its statement in reply to a question from the magazine See which wanted to know whether visitors from outer space had landed on the earth from flying saucers.
"The Air Force reply, in part, says:
"'As limited as man is in his knowledge and understanding of the universe and its many forces, it would be foolhardy indeed to deny the possibility that higher forms of life existed elsewhere. It would be similarly unreasonable to deny that intelligent beings from some other world were able to visit our planet, at least to travel in our atmosphere.
“‘However, the Air Force desires to reiterate emphatically
that there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that this possibility has been translated into reality.'"
Picking up the phone again, I dialed Liberty 5-6700, the Pentagon's number. When I got Al, I mentioned the Air Force answer to See.
"That's hardly on the level," I said. "You've got plenty of evidence—and don't give me that 'no bodies, no wreckage' routine."
Al laughed; it sounded a little forced. He didn't bother to comment on what I'd said.
"I was going to call you later," he said. "I've a couple of ATIC reports in here for you."
"Any new angles?"
"Yes, in both of them. They're the two Japan sightings you asked me to clear."
I told him I'd be in; the reports might throw some light on the purpose of the saucer survey.
When I saw Al, I asked him the latest on the Utah pictures. He went through the cigarette trick, fiddling with his lighter, apparently making up his mind what to say.
"The Navy's confirmed ATIC's analysis," he finally admitted. "And the official showing is practically approved."
I whistled. "Al, I never thought it would go through. By this time next week—"
"Hold on," he said, "it'll take longer than that. We've got to work out the public statement."
"Why would it take that long? You said it was all set."
Al didn't look at me.
"Several people have to pass on it. You know, channels-service red tape."
"Oh, sure," I said. "But the showing is OK'd?"
"As of now, yes."
Maybe it was, I thought as I left, but that didn't mean it would stick. From Al's evasive manner it was obvious a first-class battle had developed over the showing.
The silence group might win after all.