We live in the age of fast-flying, far-reaching space ships, and are proud of what human ingenuity has achieved in this field. Research is going on with ultra-fast ships, reaching half the velocity of light and designed as powerful instruments for visiting our neighboring stars.
But the adult soon forgets the first stumbling steps of childhood, and the first attempts to reach our nearest cosmic vicinity has almost completely vanished from our memory.
Looking back through the centuries, we perceive a chain of heroic deeds which mark mans grasp at other planets. Only 50 years ago, Glenn Wolfs party landed on Pluto. Their flash light photographs showing the men wading through helium pools amidst fantastic structures of frozen gas which tower into the eternal night, belong to the standard equipment of astronomical books today.
A hundred years ago, Ted Aitken, the most fearless space explorer of his time, died in a bold attempt to reach Saturn. His ship, the famous "Nightmare," was smashed between the rocks of Saturns ring after a meteor had blown away the navigation room.
A hundred years before his time, Gordon Rockwell opened the golden age of discoveries. He was the first to jump in his ion-powered "Blizzard" over the great gulfthe vast gap behind Mars, as they called itand intrude into the dangerous realm of Jupiters satellites. This pioneer discovered fossils of a strange life on satellite 111. It blossomed millions of years ago when the giant planet was still the hot, animating center of its extensive system. Rockwell actually founded the cosmic branch of palaeobiologic sciences and made Jupiters moons an El Dorado of cosmic life research.
Even farther back, old documents reveal the tragedies connected with the exploration of Venus and tell a tale of Duke Hatchwords "sunny" trip to Mercury .?.?. yes, planet after planet unveiled their secrets before the eager spirit and ironclad will of keen explorers.
Yet, there is one planet which must be mentioned separately. Mars, the most familiar outer world for our generation, is connected with the very first beginnings of space travel.
Back in the 20th Century, when tiny rockets climbed a meager 200 miles (did you ever hear of a "V-2" or a "Neptune 8"?), Mars was the dream goal of those who believed in space travel, actually a fantastic conception when one considers the troubled and primitive world into which they were born. Mars was considered the most interesting planet in the system, the only one that might bear life. Some even dreamed of a Martian civilization, superior to ours, with which a cosmic exchange of ideas might be brought about. Small wonder that Mars became the first planet ever explored by man.
Circling Earth in small scout rockets, scientists and engineers, dreamers and adventurers, found themselves on the brink of a vast emptiness, beyond which new worlds lured and stimulated their desire to remove the barriers erected between man and star.
The first attempt to realize these dreams is known in history as "Expedition Ares."