The Exploration of Space

The Exploration of Space

The Exploration of Space

The Exploration of Space


National Acronautics and Space Administration Washington, D. C.

Space physics derives its individuality from its research tools, the satellite and the space probe. The technology of space flight and the special requirements of instrumentation for space experiments separate this field from the traditional areas of geophysics, astronomy, and particle physics in which it found its inspiration. The astronomer and the geophysicist who join in planning the exploration of the planets find as strong a bond in their common problems as either has with his colleagues engaged in ground- based research.

On April 29-30, 1959, the first nationally sponsored conference devoted to the special problems of space physics met in Washington under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the American Physical Society. Space physics had come into existence two years before, at a time when only a small part of the scientific community in America was engaged in the planning and execution of space experiments. With the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, preparations began for an intensified research program in the space sciences, and the NASA therefore proposed a symposium on current problems in space exploration. H. C. Urey had independently undertaken the organization of a similar conference under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society; accordingly, the symposium in its final form was organized under the joint sponsorship of the three agencies.

The objectives of the symposium were (1) to awaken the interest of the scientific community in the problems of space research; (2) to present an estimate of our present and future capabilities for space exploration, including the study of the upper atmosphere, the exploration of the moon and near-by planets, and the observation of the sun and stars from orbiting space platforms; (3) to acquaint the experimentalist with existing instrumentation in space physics and to challenge his ingenuity in the construction of new apparatus.

The symposium opened with a session on fields and solid particles in the solar system. In the first paper F. L. Whipple surveys the results of ground-based and satellite meteorite research and describes future possibilities for meteorite instrumentation in space vehicles. It appears that ˜103 of solid matter fall on the earth daily, that most meteorites are fragile and easily crushed by 0.02 atmosphere, and that all meteorites belong to the solar system. Professor Whipple stresses the potential value of ground-based research for the study of meteors, stating that 80 per cent of the needed information can be obtained by terrestrial observation.

The next two papers, by T. Gold and E. N. Parker, discuss the controversial question of the mechanisms for transport of charged particles from the sun to the earth, and the bearing . . .

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