Science: Eager Spaceport

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U.S. spacemen returning from their high ride splash their frail capsules in the hostile sea. Costly fleets of ships and aircraft are required for their rescue, and many a U.S. spaceman is convinced that the craft would be far better off landing on land. The best space landing spot in the U.S., says the Bulletin of the Holloman, N. Mex., section of the American Rocket Society, is right near Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The first big U.S. rockets came down on dry land at the Army's White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico's arid Tularosa Basin north of El Paso. But when the Air Force became the principal U.S. rocket-launching agency, it set up shop at Cape Canaveral and flew its long-range missiles over the ocean. The Russians stuck to the land, seem to have found no special difficulty in bringing their spacecraft down on solid ground. Eventually, argues the Holloman Bulletin, the U.S. will have to do the same. Large manned spaceships returning from orbit or the moon are far too valuable to drop into the unpredictable ocean. If they head for a land spaceport, they can be guided by radar stations from positions that are stationary and precisely located. Their pilots will be able to guide on well-known landmarks.

The men who man the Army and Air Force bases of New Mexico believe that the Tularosa Basin is ideal for a major spaceport. In its northern sector is a vast, bare alkali flat with 100 sq. mi. of almost perfectly level surface, made chiefly of gypsum (natural plaster of Paris), which is firm enough to support the world's heaviest aircraft. Most of the basin's few inhabitants are already connected with military space activities and are eager to see the region regain the importance that Canaveral took away from it. Even the small cities beyond the basin's rim are not frightened by the possibility of a misguided spaceship landing in the middle of town. No other spot in the U.S., says the Bulletin, has the same natural advantages, existing facilities, and willingness to accept the risks of the space age.