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Leading scientist from the UK criticizes Apollo 8

apollo8 news articlesDecember 1968, Sir Bernard Lovell. Foolish to send Apollo 8 to the Moon.

Astronauts put at irresponsible risk (from our correspondent) London - Sir Bernard Lovell, the director of the English radio telescope at Jordell Bank, a great authority on the subject of space exploration, has in an interview declared that the plan of the Americans to send three astronauts into orbit around the moon over Christmas to collect more scientific information is "completely foolish".

The chance is enormous that the three astronauts will never return to Earth or that they will be dead if they do accomplish the return. Instruments can do a better job. The Americans have confirmed these concerns. There is a possibility that they will not be able to escape from the moon's orbit. It is also possible that they could die from radiation caused by a solar eruption. They could also die during the re-entry into the atmosphere at a speed of 40,000 km an hour, a speed no human has ever withstood. The Americans have tested this return only once with the unmanned Apollo 5.

Lovell's opinion is that instruments, that have improved a lot over the last years, are better able to gather new information about the moon than astronauts. The instruments could take soil samples and send them back to Earth. More than anything this is what astronomers are interested in. They want to know what the moon is made of.

The Russians could put the Americans (who have planned to land a man on the moon by the end of next year) into the shadow if they bring back some moon samples by April. The Russians are easily capable of putting a robot on the moon's surface and bringing back lunar samples. The Russian scientists could then proudly announce: look here we have lunar rocks.

Lovell has had a skeptical view of the space race since 1959. He said that the Americans are still obsessed with the announcement by President Kennedy that the United States will have landed a man on the moon before 1970.

Lovell thinks that the Americans will be the first to land a man on the moon but that the Russians will be the first to land a man on other planets. There are programs designed for interplanetary flights in the seventies and eighties. Lovell assumes that in the next ten years there will be Russian, and possibly American, spacecrafts circling Venus and Mars. Mars, at 54.4 million kilometers away from the Earth when the planets are at closest range, is most likely the only planet where humans can live, and therefore the next logical step after the moon. At midday on Mars the temperature is a comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 Celsius) but later the temperature will drop to far below zero, meaning that the first humans on Mars will need proper protection against the cold.

Original clipping in Dutch:
Source: unknown, Dec. 1968.

Sir Bernard Lovell