SP-168 EXPLORING SPACE WITH A CAMERA

 

INTRODUCTION

 

[ix] THIS IS A COLLECTION OF the best photographs taken from space during the first decade of space exploration. The reader may miss the familiar pictures of launch pads, rockets, and tracking antennas. Here he will find instead views seen through the eyes of cameras in the eerie solitude of space-orbiting hundreds or thousands of miles above the Earth's surface, swooping low over heretofore unseen mountains and craters of the Moon, resting gently on the lunar plains, and gliding silently past the red planet Mars. Sometimes the cameras were pointed by men. Sometimes they were pointed by machines with computer brains, gyroscopic senses, star-seeking eyes, and servomechanism muscles powered by solar energy. The then brought their films back with them. The machines radioed their pictures back to an Earth to which they would never return. In both cases, they recorded views newer before seen by men.

These historic pictures depict, far better shall words, man's determined assault on the secrets of space. Some of the early pictures seem almost amateurish, taken by untried and relatively primitive equipment. But at the time they seemed wondrously exciting, and men of the space program would cluster about a freshly received picture and say to each other almost incredulously, "Look! There's England and it's just like the maps! "

As the years counted down, one problem after another was encountered and solved, and one objective after another achieved. "The difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer" seemed to fit the space program. Reading about a new success began to seem routine to some. But new pictures of new sights still drew excited clusters of men and the exclamations:

 

"Look! There's the whole Earth!"
 
"Look! The back of the Moon doesn't have flat plains like the front!"
 
"Look! The Moon's surface looks like a World War I battlefield!"
 
"Gemini VI and VII are almost touching!"
 
"Moon dirt looks just like my garden dirt, and the rocks just like those on Earth!"
 
"Look! Mars looks like the Moon!"

 

Perhaps the reader can imagine some of the excitement these pictures generated when they were first seen by those of us in the space program. It wasn't all a series of exultant "Looks!" Disheartening failures had preceded the Ranger VI mission, but after a fine launch smooth midcourse correction, and precise 2 1/2-day voyage, all problems seemed to have been solved. Then in the last minutes before lunar impact, the cameras failed to turn on. Nor will we easily forget the thruster malfunction on Gemini VIII that almost brought tragedy. But perseverance prevailed and more than 90 percent of space missions attempted in 1967 were successful. Browning once wrote, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for."

This book is based on a lecture that I gave on November 16, 1966, at the annual banquet of the Washington Society of Engineers. The lecture was subsequently repeated many times, usually drawing advice to write a book based on the pictures. Instead of writing it myself, I decided to ask my friends and associates in the space program to help produce this book by preparing captions for pictures having special meaning for them. In [x] some cases, the captioneers played a major role in the program that produced the pictures. In other cases, they are experts on the pictures' contents. They include scientists, engineers, and administrators. They responded enthusiastically, and I regret that some captions had to be dropped and others compressed in final picture editing. I hope all of the contributors enjoy Exploring Space With a Camera.

In this book I have used primarily photographs from the space program of the United States, in part because they were most familiar and available to me. Some Soviet photographs have been included, however, to highlight some of the many accomplishments of their space program.

Many aspects of space exploration cannot be depicted by a camera. A hint of this can be seen on page 181, which shows a spectrograph of the star Canopus. Scientific studies of the upper atmosphere, the ionosphere, and the particles and fields in the great radiation belts of the magnetosphere are made primarily with instruments other than the camera. Nevertheless, this photographic essay depicts the imagination and courage of space exploration in a way that should hold deep meaning for participant and spectator alike.

It is also an exciting portent for the future, when space flight will play a role of ever-increasing importance both for science and for the practical benefit of man. Our unearthly spacecraft will help us solve a host of earthly problems. They are already indispensable to global communications and will play a major role in breaking the communications barriers of the world. Dramatic improvements in all-weather navigation and in the traffic control of ships and aircraft are emerging. Satellite collection of meteorological data will make possible long-range forecasting of global weather. And with the aid of satellites, man will come to monitor and manage many of the natural resources of the Earth.

Soon now, man will tread the barren wastes of the Moon. One day, after suitable reconnaissance, Mars will yield its secrets in like manner. Space stations will perpetually circle the Earth in the conduct of both scientific observations and technological investigations. And precursor spacecraft will probe the outer regions of the solar system, and peer tentatively toward the starry, endless universe beyond.

 

EDGAR M. CORTRIGHT
Director, Langley Research Center
National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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