terça-feira, 20 de março de 2007

Como em 1969 pensávamos que seria o futuro da exploração espacial!

Este artigo foi publicado na revista TIME de 25 de Julho de 1969 - na semana em que os homens andaram, pela primeira vez, na Lua. O artigo terá portanto sido escrito pouco antes desse evento histórico.

É curioso, quase humorístico, ver qual parecia ser o rumo natural das coisas, e que apenas não foi porque não enriqueceu ainda mais as grandes fortunas... Sim, como Von Braun afirmou, podíamos estar em Marte em 1982... A estação espacial podia ter estado em órbita nos anos 70, e não apenas agora...

Podia até ter havido 10 missões à Lua, em vez de apenas 6 - 7 se contarmos com a Apollo 13...

Tudo é política e dinheiro. O desejo de conhecimento não é ainda a força motivadora da Humanidade, e enquanto não o fôr, continuamos condenados, como quaisquer animais irracionais, incapazes de dominar as suas circunstâncias.

Como os dinossauros...

Friday, Jul. 25, 1969

EVEN as man prepared to take his first tentative extraterrestrial steps, other celestial adventures beckoned him. The shape and scope of the post-Apollo manned space program remained hazy, and a great deal depends on the safe and successful outcome of Apollo 11. But well before the moon flight was launched, NASA was casting eyes on targets far beyond the moon. The most inviting: the earth's close, and probably most hospitable, planetary neighbor. Given the same energy and dedication that took them to the moon, says Wernher von Braun, Americans could land on Mars as early as 1982.

Mustering the necessary zeal—not to mention the political and budgetary support—may be more difficult than mastering the technology. NASA has no plans yet for any manned expeditions beyond the moon, largely because of its inability to wrest more funds from a Congress whose members are already divided over the $24 billion tab for Apollo. Last week, as head of a task force on future U.S. space objectives, Vice President Spiro Agnew said the nation should aim for a manned Martian landing by the end of the century. But Agnew conceded that the other members of the panel might be more cautious about a manned Martian expedition.

With sufficient funds, NASA intends to launch nine more Apollo flights to the moon in the next three years. Lofted by the same powerful Saturn 5 boosters that have been Apollo's workhorses, U.S. astronauts will range over increasingly rugged areas. The scheduled Apollo 12 flight in November will take them to the Ocean of Storms. On subsequent missions, they will touch down near the Crater Censorinus, the Sea of Serenity, the Crater Tycho and finally such forbidding abysses as the craters Aristarchus and Copernicus.

As the lunar expeditions become more ambitious, so will their hardware. NASA is now improving the life-support systems in the lunar module to allow visits to the moon of up to three days by 1970. The agency is also developing more flexible space suits and designing a small rocket-propelled "lunar flyer."

NASA also hopes to keep its manned space effort alive by using surplus Saturn 4B rockets—which now serve as the third stage of the Apollo launch vehicle—for earth-orbiting flights. This effort, dubbed the Apollo Applications Program, will begin in 1971 with a 28-day flight by three men—one a doctor. These vehicles are only forerunners of a giant space station that NASA plans to orbit by the late 1970s. The first station will probably accommodate twelve people, including the first American spacewoman. It will remain aloft for at least ten years, with crew members rotated every six months.

Mapping the Red Planet

At the same time, NASA will attempt increasingly complex unmanned probes. Two unmanned Mariner spacecraft will soon pass within 2,000 miles of Mars and radio back enough close-up photographs to map about 20% of the Martian surface. In 1973, other Martian orbiters will eject two instrument-packed capsules for soft landings on Mars.

Mars, however, is only one of NASA's planetary targets—and a relatively close one at that. In 1972, the space agency will send two Pioneer spacecraft on a flyby of Jupiter, largest planet in the solar system. A year later, another Mariner will try the first multiple-planet probe. After a sweep of Venus, it will use the Venusian gravity to boost itself on toward Mercury, the sun's closest and smallest satellite. In the late 1970s, the so-called "outer planets" will be so favorably aligned that a spacecraft passing Jupiter could use its gravity to push on toward Saturn, Uranus and Neptune —a "grand tour" that would cover billions of miles and take as long as ten years.

The prospects for man's first leap into the solar system will surely be enhanced by the success of such unmanned missions. Not only will they prove the feasibility of interplanetary travel, but they will help arouse the public support necessary for such journeys. To be sure, Americans will continue to agonize over the cost of the program —which NASA says will come to no more than .5% to 1% of the gross national product (currently running at $900 billion) a year. And the question of priorities will remain relevant as long as such earthly imperfections as poverty and pollution persist. Still, as Science-Fiction Writer Isaac Asimov says, "Man has always had the other side of the hill to worry about"—and he always will. This week the other side of the hill is the moon. Before this century ends, it will almost certainly be Mars —and beyond.

Fonte: Revista Time

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