Science: X Marks the Minute

It was firing day at White Sands Proving Ground, N.Mex. A Viking rocket, built by the Glenn L. Martin Co. for the Navy, stood pencil-slim on the launching stand, its gleaming aluminum body surrounded by a gantry crane. Zero hour (X) was 10 a.m.

As daylight came, the lonely cluster of buildings on the edge of the great dry valley hummed with nervous tension. This rocket, the Viking II, had misfired two weeks before, and a rocket that has once misfired makes everyone a little nervous. Sometimes rockets "walk" (i.e., move sidewise) on firing;...

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