Science: Old Devil Moon

Just before dawn one morning last week, a 98-ft. Atlas-Able rocket rose majestically from its launching pad and for 68 seconds cut a brilliant, steady swath through the Florida sky. Then, suddenly, the rocket's nose lurched, and an instant later a red-orange mushroom blast shattered the sixth U.S. attempt to put a paddle-wheel satellite in orbit around the moon. If the feat had succeeded, it would have rivaled even the Russian successes of hitting the moon and photographing its backside.

As it was, last week's failure put an ignominious end to the $40 million hurried-up Atlas-Able lunar probe program. Rather than try...

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