About science; About the space program
This is about science produced by the California Institute of Technology and originally broadcast by station KPCC in Pasadena California. The programs are made available to this station by national educational radio. This program is about the space program meeting to discuss this subject or Dr. Albert him of Celtic's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Dr. Bruce Murray associate professor of planetary sciences and a consultant to the National Aeronautical and Space Administration. Here now is Dr. hips. 1965 was a big year for the unmanned exploration of Mars. The U.S. Mariner probe returned 21 television pictures of the surface showing some details that have never before been seen by man in the Soviet attempts on two failed about in mid flight it completed about two thirds of its journey. This turned out to be very nearly an exact repetition of the failure of an earlier Soviet spacecraft that was called Mars 1 and it was launched about two and a half years before this. Then there was another Soviet spacecraft called Zhan 3. This looked very much like a trial
run of a Mars probe. What it actually did was to photograph of the backside of the moon. And it's been transmitting these pictures back to us pretty continuously even from very great distances out as far as the orbit of Mars although Mars wasn't around when it got there. Nevertheless from the point of view of some of the scientists that have been connected with our Mars program. All is not roses. Bruce Murray assistant professor of planetary science at the California Institute of Technology is here to tell us how he sees the comparison between the U.S. and Soviet space programs. And Bruce what do you see after all of these successes as some of the negative aspects of the U.S. attempt at the exploration of Mars. Well I'm a little unhappy to start out on a negative tone or as start out in a positive tone that would be negative later. Let me let me put it in this way that I think that we have gotten an unexpectedly large yield on a very small investment so be it on the other hand I've got a rather poor return so far on a very large
investment. The result is that there is a general tendency to say to suppose that this rather likely set of circumstances will continue into the future. I think in fact that our the effort that we have put into the exploration of planets has been a very small one. And the. This effort has not been maintained in a systematic and consistent fashion which is necessary to ensure that you will we continue to reach the return on our investment. Well now as you say the Soviets have a large investment. We've seen a couple of these attempts at Mars the vena X which went past Venus again just a couple of attempts there at least the ones that actually made it to Venus. But how big is the Soviet program how many attempts for example how many tries are they made at Mars so far.
The Soviets have tried nine times. Pardon me. They have tried six times for Mars and those on three test flight. And it's very likely they'll try at least two more in the coming December. And they have tried. About 14 times for Venus 14 for the rice I see and we have we have three attempts as I recall right. We have a little lie in there and then a couple of mariners one of which work you're counting all pioneers because of your own history goes back there in the Soviet count we don't count things as small as a pioneer is OK. It's a matter of fact the total weight of the Mariner 2 and the mariner for spacecraft which were successful Venus and Mars spacecraft respectively would not equal the weight of a single Soviet spacecraft has been used and yet they have 14 already had Venus and
six of Mars Plus a test flight. Right now this is counting those cases where they have attempted to launch it from a satellite orbit and have been unsuccessful. On the other hand they cost just as much as far as they're concerned whether it was launched or not. So this is a major program. Yes. We've attempted to estimate you know a very crude sense of how much it would have cost us to have carried out a comparable program. I can't of course estimate how much it cost them but it cost something like five to ten times as much as we spent. So you can say they have approved an order of magnitude larger program and this is just the interplanetary program right now of course they put up quite a few of the VAs talks with man on them and so on they've got some pretty good things at the mound so that even that adds even more into a space program. Right and I think the other part that's important and impressive is that they haven't been allowed the program to be slowed down because of the early failures and that as they've gone
on they have solved those series of problems a first time probably the launch vehicle they saw of those they with a unique two in Vieni 3 they finally have transmitted to the distance of the planet. Practically they both of these spacecraft fail just at the scene and they are attempting far more difficult things than we are in there to do this with far more sophisticated systems and we are for instance always spacecraft going back probably to 1960 use a astronomical orientation system as well as a Sun Earth orientation system. We tried this first with Mariner 4. Their system is comparable to the one that at least judging from published reports of his company is comparable to the one that was attempted with the orbiting us number closer rhetorically. A minute of art when in control I see and I've been doing this for many years right. They and that part of system apparently works alright. They've had other difficulties but the point is that they're extremely
ambitious and they're spending you know exerting a very large effort in order to accomplish he said. When I was a so how do you feel this compares with our efforts. Well it's a larger effort but there's a difference is reasonable and consistent and straightforward here begging the question. And I know I'm begging for an end yes. The fact of the matter are that we don't have a program. We have had one extemporaneous and improvised set of successes which is called the Mariner program which was in turn a shallow imitation of what had been hoped to be done earlier. What was the difference between what happened and what was hoped. Well we had hoped to use a rocket which is presently finally coming into play call the Atlas center. Which would have been capable of launching about fifteen hundred pounds to the planet Mars. This is to be compared with the Soviet system which launches 2000 pounds of planet Mars but that still is there are there are comparable. OK this
rocket failed and the funds failed. It was difficult to say which was the more effective in killing the program. But in any case it was not possible to proceed ahead on the use of the fifteen hundred pound spacecraft. So we reverted back to a small rocket called the Atlas of Gina and this is indeed what did launch the two Mariner spacecraft successfully. But that was an improvisation that we were not even keeping up with the goals we had set for ourselves in 1962. We now come to the present. There is no American flight of course from 1967 with Mars for economic reasons. The 69 opportunity apparently will be attempted with an American flight and we will finally use the Atlas centaur rocket that we have. Had such great hopes for in the past Unhappily however we can't afford to fill it up. So we're only sending half the weight that could be set it is an 800 pound spacecraft
to Mars because there isn't enough money to pay for it anymore. So if I say it's difficult to discern where it was a technological problem where it was an economic problem but at least the point that you have brought out is that it has been at somewhat inconsistent program. Yes it between plans and accomplishments or has been steps forward and backward sort of mixed right in the. The essential part of the inconsistency is that we there have been groups within the country like the National Academy of Sciences which does represent I think a fair cross-section of responsible scientific opinion which have it emphasised very strongly the importance of a sustained and rather ambitious planetary programme purely on intellectual merits this is not necessarily in propaganda but as a salient effect in the domestic economy not necessarily on the facts of technology purely because there are great things to be learnt. But this is one of the great eras of discovery
and we should participate in this as a major nation. The fact of the matter is that when Congress has had to balance the budget so to speak within the space program and presumably the national space agency also the money was just not available for this and it is still a problem. And yet we have at least gotten some results even out of the improvised program so it fits in to some kind of a program even though it was perhaps an afterthought. It will. The mariner Sea resort right on the the improvisation like often happens in science was brilliantly successful. One of the reasons was that. There was no other choice. There was no other chance. This was all I was going to be for a long time. One did not have an assembly line like the Russians must have you know
to turn these things out. You couldn't say well if we miss this time we'll go next. It was never clear when the next time was going to be around and for an engineer working the program I suspect it wasn't clear to him whether his career would embrace the next opportunity and that he was going to get a shot at doing something in Mars he better do it with one of the two spacecraft that he had to use for the subject. And this is not a bad thing. We've learned a lot from this I suspected that perhaps we were in something that's meaningful for the entire space program which is that it doesn't hurt to try to make each of these like a handmade watch to test each of them as it's your own personal private possession and to kind of hold its hand all the way to Mars. The other hand I don't think that one can expect that pattern to continue indefinitely. The engineers get ulcers. The organizations have difficulty in the most serious thing of all is it when the funding is disrupted as has happened most recently during the last year then these same engineers disperse the talent and attitudes and organizational flexibility
that have been built up dissipate in the face of changing goals and indefinite aims and the result is that you have to go through the whole agonizing procedure again and hence over a much longer period of time. So I suppose even though we can take some. Sort of propaganda comfort if you will from the fact that the Soviets have not yet succeeded in getting planetary data as we have. It's small comfort if if as you predict they are going to keep on with this production line effort every time Mars comes around. Yes I hate to find myself in the position of being the prophet of doom. One can never win that if you can be proven wrong and to be a little hysterical in your approach or you can be proven right. Nobody likes that either including yourself. Nevertheless it does seem that we're in a situation where the best we can hope for is continued Soviet failure from up from a competition point of view.
That since we don't have a program for some time we have to ask that there be two sets two more sets of failures for the Mars efforts and that that seems to be a little unrealistic. I think that there is considerable evidence that they've made large engineering strides. They've solved a great many of their problems that I think it's unrealistic to suppose that we will find Mars an unexplored planet again the next time we go. Particularly was on three having such a nice record. Yes. It's a matter of easing transmission radio as a matter of fact there was a release in the Soviet press about Zhan 3 just recently stating that it was continuing to perform properly and is now at one hundred fifty three million kilometers from the earth it did not make clear whether it is transmitted back. The photos of the backside of the moon reach transmitted back again as a test of that distance but the fact that it still is in communication with the control center is the important thing because the Russian probes for their very ambitiousness have suffered from Apparently one fatal defect and
that is a following that they do not maintain constant radio lock with the earth. That there which is a sophisticated approach that has a lock on the. Son and I'm going Opus I'm not on the earth and then when I want to transmit to the earth I must reorient So every transmission involves what we would term a mid-course maneuver of some kind I see now as you well know better than I people even now at JPL and elsewhere have a little heart flutters. Yeah I don't get operation. All right and each transmission for instance there were something like twenty six such heater views with two and sixty seven interviews of this type with three and that problem obviously is if you ever lose it it's goodbye Charlie. And that's exactly what's happened on apparently on almost all of these as they have in the course of so many repaired it repeated courses they finally lost. They seem very determined to solve that problem.
They keep approaching this with anyone that you know going out and that's when you why when they release how many times they interviewed their satellite it's a rather significant fact. And they say they are up to 60 times with three they don't need that many times that all the time for just one Mars mission. There are many aspects the problem with that certainly I think is a significant one. This is perhaps a good place to insert a little anecdote. You said only before I see the anecdote which should make it clear I am not a JPL. I do not receive any money from JPL and that just like you feel free to talk about what I'm going to complement. I don't always compliment in fact but there well there is an interesting thing that in the same episode I talked about which was an improvisation. The Americans had to go with less than one third the total weight of the Mars 1 spacecraft Ritz's the Soviets launched in 1962. This meant they could not try things fancy where they wanted to or not there was no choice there. There was in fact
considerable question people's mind whether you could even just get a radio out there that were transferred back much less do anything else. And the way this was solved was that it was realized that since Mars is out beyond the orbit of the earth and that during the geometry of the flight the earth and the sun would be relatively close together from the point of view of the Mars spacecraft. That one could have a fixed position antenna. They did not need to be point a bull in space in that the solar cells could lock in the sun in the intent to get a lock on the earth by a simple rotation picking up can Opus and this could be made to be to a fixed geometry for the entire course of the flight and it was in fact the same fixed geometry the Terminator transmissions in October of last year from Mariner 4 took advantage of the plane interplanetary geometry Exactly and it was a necessary simplicity we normally would of course preferred to have what's
called an articulated head that could point in any direction that's what the Rangers had. Right and this is what the Soviets have that they have to point it. Maybe we were lucky because this is the this very simplicity perhaps was the sort of thing that led to our success and this is perhaps the sort of thing that is cause of Soviet failures. But this booster problem that you mention the fact that the Atlas Centauri did not come through on schedule. It was a critical matter and this program is a booster development problems continuing to plague us are these things are we still in a bind with boosters now as we look forward to a future program. We're going to have more of these difficulties showing up in other things whose schedules are going to slip and knock things out of a program. Well that's kind of a crystal ball question although I'll attempt to comment on it. If we were to stick with our proven technology or with the Atlas Centauri assuming that it's successful surveyor mission which is scheduled to be used
for and therefore could be successful for future planetary ones this would not be the case. We could in fact just essentially accept our losses and our luck together and say well we are now where we hope to be in 64 but fortunately our adversaries are also set behind that we have a viable launch system we have experience with a spacecraft that's comparable to this and that therefore we should go ahead and use this investment if that were our approach we would not be in any problem with boosters I think the. Difficulty is that our aspirations outstretch our technological capabilities to some extent uncertain or financial because the national program at present is based on the presumption of going up to the very large class of rockets going into Saturn and class rockets the ones that will be used for power right at the earliest possible time and that this all this data is already slipped into the middle to late 70s apparently the
earliest possible time is again not a technological consideration but a financial one so that I think the answer basically to your question is that we are not now and in fact have not been for some time limited by capability but rather by economical potations home we go into the. When we finally go into the big booster utilization and get on Mars probe on a Saturn this is something called a Voyager right. Correct. How. How big is it. What kind of what kind of spacecraft are we talking about. Nobody knows really. For an obvious reason the biggest name without a design. Yes one could develop that theme rather far that we have never flown a planetary spacecraft larger than five hundred seventy five pounds. We are presently. I SAY WE ARE THE NATION. JPL is working I believe on one of the order of eight hundred pounds which will represent something in the way of a next
step in size. The Saturn vehicle can carry something like 30 to 70 profiles and pounds to Mars the Saturn 5. It is not all clear how one makes a step from less than a thousand pounds to more than 10000 pounds one has a factor from ten to fifty him that only a very small fraction of this can be taken up and we done in C or in using steel instead of aluminum. If you feel it necessary so that the answer is it in less. At least I would assert the answer to be that unless one has an orderly expansion of one's technological efforts that you can in fact use the extra payload of the boost as well at all. And also an orderly expansion of the financial commitment to this because that's it. Jumping by a factor of 10 to 15 payload weight must also mean a rather healthy jump and payload money in a lot of money in fact that's a dominant one. Well let's talk numbers. The mariner program from Mars and Venus cost
something in the order of 40 million a year. That's including the boosters and tracking cost development for the years in which it was operating. That's not right you know off against the launch. But it was a four year program. They cost about one hundred fifty seven million dollars that's 40 what 40 million a year. The cost to initiate the Saturn scale program. Even the small Saturn. There are two versions in people's minds is of the order of 200 million dollars a year the to really utilize a payload would be to three to four hundred a year. Now that's a factor again of 10 and it's clear that that this requires basically 10 times more people in times where buildings somewhere 10 times a scientific participation or more perhaps even more desirable. This is not easy thing to do. Can I do this in a single step and I don't think we ought to do a single step. And yet the Seems to be the kind of program the Russians are mounting. No that's not true.
The Russians never had our Mariner program they started right out spending at this high rate. They established very quickly essentially a certain configuration of a fly by the fly by could either take pictures or to drop a capsule off and they've been going with that same system for only started with that system at least as early as nine hundred sixty two. And they have been with it ever since. And so that from it's a matter of fact from a hard headed capital as you point they're spending their money much more efficiently than we because they're building a model T Ford and they're going to make the Model T Ford do the job when they're not switching around with different boosters and different spacecraft for each time. I might comment that it's impressive and a bit frightening since we are indeed rivals and a great international situation to find our rivals capable of making decade long decisions involving a factor of 10 greater funding than we are
able to and sticking to it and sticking to it in the face of failure. And I'm a little troubled I don't it imply something about their decision making structure and about their time scale I wish they're playing out their role in history that I find very troubling. This amount of money they're putting into the program implies that they're over all space program may be bigger and just plain dollars on ARS you think that's true. This is a puzzle I only know what I read in the newspapers which I'm afraid almost all any American knows about the Soviet space program because they masked us in very great secrecy. They treat their space program apparently with a kind of secrecy that we treat nuclear weapons in United States. Yes they you know they have given us scientific data from right but they've given us very little about the actual technology dollars launch programs. But the one of the big questions that came up I guess a
couple years ago there was kind of a national debate and the charge was made that the U.S. is racing itself to the moon. And one of the reasons for the charge was it was clear the Soviets had a big interplanetary program. They had a bigger a satellite program they had a big crew of a Gemini program that how in the world could they also be writhing in agony over an Apollo program. And one of the conclusions may perhaps not correct but in any case one of the conclusions was they don't have an Apollo program. Yes there is some hesitation for this which allows them to avoid these big developmental costs or Bernard level came back from a trip to Russia announcing that the Soviets had given a right manned program which was subsequently thoroughly denied by Mr Khrushchev. I recall but it's not clear they have an Apollo program. That's the point that they I don't think we have any way really of knowing whether they are building equivalent of a Saturn 5 rocket which is where our money has been going and where they are developing the spacecraft to go with that
rocket. It is possible I guess we in fact ourselves consider the possibility of not using the bigger rocket but using a lot of small rockets and rendezvous techniques and simple something and write off on their hand that this could be the explanation I don't know. But at any rate they have a big program. They have a very large program at least as large as ours and possibly much larger. Which considering that this is an absolute dollars or rubles you want to figure it for yet. But the point of this is that this is on a much smaller industrial base and a much smaller gross national product so they for their fraction of their available technological resources if they're plowing into this must be very much greater than ours. So we're taking on an absolute basis and it's much bigger on a relative basis and it's particularly big in terms of the risk capital they have that only you don't have 50 percent of your gross national product you can put into advanced technology. How do you think how do you feel that the congressman respond to all of this.
They indicated any desire to go along with Nassau and trying to improve this situation. How do they react to the comparison between Soviets and ourselves. The Congress seems judging from Again what one reads in the newspapers and also the Congressional Record where there are quite adequate hearings on these matters. Congress does seem to be very sensitive to the Russian activities perhaps more so than many American people. But the man on the street. This is perhaps because they're in a situation where they see the competition with the Soviets in many different realms and they cannot separate the space program from the other realms. You think they are in a mood to increase the funding to do this. No but I think not necessarily but I think that they're certainly in a mood to ensure that the funding that is spent is spent effectively and efficiently in demonstrating America's technological prowess and its interest and willingness to participate in a great adventure.
Well has this been expressed as a determination to. Being more consistent in program development as you were suggesting a while ago that we have a consistency that we so far seem to have lacked as Congress also found this. That's a very hard thing to for me to answer fairly because I feel personally rather strongly in the subject and I'm likely to perhaps try to spread the guilt over all responsible parties. I have read the Congressional Record on the relevant testimony back since 1960 and it is my impression from reading the testimony and making the assumption that people mean what they say. That Congress probably has wanted to have a much larger planetary program than they have actually had. But they've been placed in a position where they could only have this by even greater funding over it what they've already approved. They have not been allowed to choose between having a greater planetary program and having less of something else other than the usual position of Congress either say yes or no to the money but not say much about the program detail.
Yes and I think there is evidence recently that they're getting a little tired of that. Yeah well that's that's typical of Congress I recall Congressman Carson recently has made a few statements which imply that. He would like to change the actual program details as well as a plan. This perhaps is true and it would be a surprising turn of events if Congress were to do the actual planning. Yes it would because this is certainly not a role that Congress customarily fulfills and yet Mr Karzai is in an interesting position being an engineer a technologist on a program dealing with technology. Bruce thank you very much for joining us tonight and giving us this picture of the Soviet American comparison in space. It's been a pleasure. This was about science with host Dr. Albert Hibbs of Celtic's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and his guest Dr. Bruce Murray associate professor of planetary sciences. You're invited to join us for our next program went to more prominent scientists will discuss a topic of interest
about science is produced by the California Institute of Technology and is originally broadcast by station KPCC in Pasadena California. The programs are made available to the station by national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
- About science
- About the space program
- Producing Organization
- California Institute of Technology
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program focuses on the science behind the United States space program. The guest for this program is Dr. Bruce Murray, consultant to National Aeronautics and Space Administration, member of National Academy of Sciences' Space Science Board.
- Series Description
- Interview series on variety of science-related subjects, produced by the California Institute of Technology. Features three Cal Tech faculty members: Dr. Peter Lissaman, Dr. Albert R. Hibbs, and Dr. Robert Meghreblian.
- Broadcast Date
- Media type
Guest: Murray, Bruce C.
Host: Hibbs, Albert R.
Producing Organization: California Institute of Technology
Producing Organization: KPPC
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-40-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “About science; About the space program,” 1966-09-29, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 24, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-nc5scq0b.
- MLA: “About science; About the space program.” 1966-09-29. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 24, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-nc5scq0b>.
- APA: About science; About the space program. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-nc5scq0b