Soviet Lead in Exploration of Space
Cocern Over Lag in Space Race With Russia
The policy of the United States on exploration of A outer space has been the target of more widespread criticism in the past few months than at any time since the Soviet Union sent Sputniks I and II circling the earth more than two years ago. Much of the criticism has come from newspapers and magazines which do not make a practice of criticizing policies of the Eisenhower administration, from respected members of Congress, and from scientists and engineers who direct space research programs. Explicit or implicit in nearly all of the unfavorable comment has been mounting anxiety over the failure of this country to go all out in an effort to overcome Russia's head start in space exploration.
The United States has probably pulled even with Russia in development of reliable long-range military missiles. As for rockets for which no pressing military need is currently apparent, it was common until recently to say: “They're ahead in propulsion; we're ahead in instrumentation.” Then Russia hit the moon with Lunik II, launched Sept. 12, and photographed the far side of the moon with Lunik III, launched Oct. 4. In light of these feats, particularly the latter, it is now feared that doubts about the precision and sophistication of Soviet instrumentation were products of wishful thinking. Indeed, some American scientists believe U.S. progress in propulsion has not been as great in the past two years as Soviet progress in instrumentation. This raises the possibility that since Sputnik I the gap between the United States and Russia in the space race has widened rather than narrowed.
Attacks on the American Record and Policy
This country's space program has been criticized on many counts. Commenting on the performance of Lunik III, Donald H. Menzel, director of the Harvard Observatory, called the photographic venture “a remarkable scientific achievement.” He asserted that indifference and indecision had kept the United States from recording a similar achievement, and that the Department of Defense had “tried to degrade the importance of research and put balancing of the budget ahead of any attempts for research.”