FROM the vantage point of 2100 A.D., the year 1957 will most certainly stand in history as the year of man's progression from a two-dimensional to a three-dimensional geography. It may well stand, also, as the point in time at which intellectual achievement forged ahead of weapons and national wealth as instruments of national policy.
The earth satellite is a magnificent expression of man's intellectual growth--of his ability to manipulate to his own purposes the very laws that govern his universe. In the message of President Bronk of the U.S. Academy of Sciences to Nesmeyanov, President of the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R., the widespread view of American scientists of the real meaning of the event was aptly expressed:
On behalf of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A., I wish to congratulate you and your Academy of Sciences, U.S.S.R., for the great achievement of placing an earth satellite in orbit. This is a brilliant contribution to the furtherance of science for which scientists everywhere will be grateful.
We should not make the mistake of seeing in the satellite merely the symbol of a foreign Power's military progress. It does, of course, represent important advances in military capability. But quite irrespective of the usual interaction of scientific and military strength, the satellite symbolizes an intellectual attainment that may dominate the period immediately ahead as the most powerful single instrument of national policy. We should examine this view closely, or we may unwittingly miss the opportunity to realize its great potentialities.
Since the instrumented satellite represents very advanced science and technology, I should like to review some of its special scientific properties. We must remember that we on the earth are sandwiched between an insulating atmosphere above and the earth beneath. The protective atmosphere above admits but a single octave of light and a few octaves of radio waves from the heavenly bodies. These restricted radiations, together with a few meteors and
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