In the New York Times Magazine, Dr. Israel Monroe Levitt, director of the Fels Planetarium of the Franklin Institute, prognosticated about the future of space exploration. These predictions were made in 1957, after the entire world set its eyes on the stars, as a result of the successful launches of Sputnik and Sputnik II, earlier that year:
1960-Satellites with TV transmitters begin operation.
1968-Rocket ship bearing a man or woman (a woman packs the same brains and skill as a man into a smaller package) penetrates to space outside the atmosphere.
1978-Construction of first manned satellite space station.
2000-First departure for the moon, Mercury, and Mars.
2???-First journeys to the nearest stars to see if they, too, have planets and life.
Here is the actual timetable for these events:
1960-AT&T applies for the right to launch a communications satellite with the government. This is finally accomplished in 1965 with the launch of Early Bird by Hughes Aircraft Company. (Interestingly, the first proposal for a communication satellite was authored by SF writer, Arthur C. Clarke-of 2001: A Space Oddysey-fame, in 1945!)
1961-Gegarin is the first man in space on April 12 while Sheppard follows him 23 days later, on May 5.
1971-Salyut I is first manned Space Station. The US's Skylab follows in 1973.
1969-Armstrong walks on moon as the first human on another celestial object. Aldrin follows him 15 minutes later. Collins drives in circles and picks them up. Mercury is probably out of the question. Mars is still just a twinkle in scientist's eyes.
2???-No difference in this prediction and reality. Trips to nearby stars are still in the way distant future.
Dr. Levitt didn't do too bad with his predictions, did he? Who would have guessed that the moon landing would precede the space station?
The launches of Sputnik I and II in 1957 set the stage for the great space race between the US and USSR. It excited generations of scientists and dreamers. Being born in that year helped to fuel my passion for science and science fiction.