Historical reasons for space exploration
VANGUARD-A HISTORY 1 BACKGROUND OF SPACE EXPLORATION
PEOPLE the world over speak of the "Space Age" as beginning with the launching of the Russian Sputnik on 4 October 1957. Yet Americans might well set the date hack at least to July 1955 when the White House, through President Eisenhower's press secretary, announced that the United States planned to launch a man-made earth satellite as an American contribution to the International Geophysical Year. If the undertaking seemed bizarre to much of the American public at that time, to astrophysicists and some of the military the government's decision was a source of elation: after years of waiting they had won official support for a project that promised to provide an invaluable tool for basic research in the regions beyond the upper atmosphere. Six weeks later, after a statement came from the Pentagon that the Navy was to take charge of the launching program, most Americans apparently forgot about it. It would not again assume great importance until October 1957.
Every major scientific advance has depended upon two basic elements, first. imaginative perception and, second, continually refined tools to observe, measure. and record phenomena that support, alter, or demolish a tentative hypothesis. This process of basic research often seems to have no immediate utility, hut, as one scientist pointed out in 1957, it took Samuel Langley's and the Wright brothers' experiments in aerodynamics to make human flight possible, and Hans Bethe's abstruse calculations on the nature of the sun's energy led to the birth of the hydrogen bomb. just as Isaac Newton's laws of gravity, motion, and thermodynamics furnished the principles upon the application of which the exploration of outer space began and is proceeding. In space exploration the data fed back to scientists from instrumented satellites have been of utmost importance. The continuing improvement of such research tools opens up the prospect of greatly enlarging knowledge of the world we live in and making new applications of that knowledge.