Matt Weinstock, Feb. 2, 1960
February 2, 2010 | 4:00 pm
Mystery of Missiles
One of the problems of those who guide our missile program is making it understandable to earth-bounders. In other words, translating complex scientific data into ordinary terms.
Toward this end former newspaperman Chris Clausen, now with Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, conducts monthly symposiums for reporters who cover the sky. Even then it doesn't all come through.
The situation is not helped by confusion in the Pentagon. Take the case of the Agena B space satellite system, now being checked out at Lockheed's Missiles and Space Division test base at Santa Cruz. When the time came recently to name the project, a phase of Agena B, to put a camera reconnaissance satellite up there to see what Mr. K.'s boys were doing, the Pentagon became nervous. The political implications were obvious. The project was successfully called Big Brother, Pied Piper, Sentry, Midas and finally simply project WS-117A. The papers, having no such inhibitions, dubbed it Spy in the Sky and the Super Snooper.
LAST WEEK, when reporters went to see the satellite at its Santa Cruz base, nestled among the giant coastal redwoods, another whimsical note entered the proceedings.
A press handout which explained how the Agena B works stated the testing was to locate and correct potential trouble under space flight conditions before the bird is sent to Vandenberg to be fired.
It pointed out that the sensitive satellite was almost human in its reactions, stating,"The missile can move a fraction of an inch during these tests, fooling it into thinking it is actually flying. In fact, it can go anywhere but up."
It was also stated that the Agena can turn itself on and off in flight and its re-start mechanism was explained.
Despite the briefing, the message apparently didn't come through to a San Francisco paper, which headlined, "Turnabout Rocket Revealed!"
Someone somehow got the idea the missile could be landed on the moon, wound up again like a top and flown back to earth.
IT MAY BE that I don't have the proper attitude toward tradition but I read with dismay that more than 500 high school athletes, each running a mile, relay style, will carry the Olympic torch from the Coliseum to Squaw Valley for the opening of the snow events there.
They'll go through Newhall, Bakersfield, Fresno, Modesto, Sacramento and Auburn to Donner Pass, where the final runner will hand the aluminum, kerosene-burning torch, which must be renewed every half hour, to a skier who, with other skiers, will carry it triumphantly to the valley of the squaws.
This ceremony, the carrying of the torch, doubtless was impressive when the Grecians started the games but it seems an awful waste of energy today. I have a three-word suggestion which would release the teams of state Highway Patrolmen who will accompany the runners, clearing traffic and insuring their safety: one motorcycle rider.
A MAN WHO is confronted daily with the choleric outcries of taxpayers and the indifference of some public officials came up the other day with this profound and ironic remark: "Thank heavens we don't get all the government we pay for!"
A principle that's quite
And never fails to pass,
Is that when a price war
My car is filled with gas.
AT RANDOM -- As if life weren't complicated enough, a postal card notice of a luncheon for L.A. yacht-men tomorrow asks, "Are you using an alkyd-fortified epoxy polyester ultraviolet-absorbent acrylic plastic urethane catalyzed paint or varnish on your boat?" If you aren't, obviously you're out of it . . . A lady named Kathleen who participated in last week's mothers' March of Dimes came upon a man on her beat with empty pockets who asked, "Say, could I charge a $1 contribution to my Bankamericard?" The answer was no.