"Observers tied to the earth ... are doomed to the role of blind men, since the interfering atmosphere prevents them from seeing most celestial objects in their true nature." So says California Institute of Technology's famed astrophysicist, Dr. Fritz Zwicky, who last week announced that science would soon try to remove their blinders.
In an article in Ordnance magazine, Dr. Zwicky announced that he and his associates hope to hurl artificial meteors beyond the earth's atmosphere, to bombard the moon, Jupiter and other planets in an effort to find out what they are made of. The scientists also hope to record the mysteries of space with rocket-borne telescopes, spectrographs and other scientific instruments.
To get a good look at the "undreamed vistas" of space, Dr. Zwicky plans to use three kinds of projectiles: 1) large primary rockets, such as the V2, which will carry scientific instruments to the upper parts of the earth's atmosphere; 2) secondary rockets, which will be launched from the primary rockets to a height of 650 miles, and will also carry recording instruments; 3) flying missiles, "capable of flying off into interplanetary space, never to return," which will be hurled free at a speed of over seven miles a second.
Such missiles, Dr. Zwicky believes, may be projected to the moon and other planetary bodies, and the collisions will be visible through telescopes on the earth. Others will become artificial satellites of the earth, whirling forever around our planet.
Besides pelting the surface of the moon, the rocketeers expect to learn a great deal about the electromagnetic field around the earth, the physical and chemical characteristics of the outer atmosphere, interstellar radiation and aerodynamics.
Just when the experiments will be undertaken is a military secret. A V-2 rocket was fired toward space from White Sands, N.M. last December, but the experiment failed.
From the Princeton University campus, physicists last week released a chain of 28 helium-filled balloons to a height of 17 miles. The balloons carried 17 pounds of electronic equipment, which were supposed to tell scientists, by means of varying tones, what the cosmic rays were doing in the stratosphere. Owing to failure of the instruments, nothing was learned.