By the End of the Century

There has been exploration since the beginning of mankind, since the beginning of curiosity. The airplane has made well-known most of the remote spots on this globe, but exploration will continue.

The new exploration will continue.

The new exploration will be in science and in space. We, as a nation, must have vision and must work hard if we are to be leaders in this new type of exploration.

I am a conservative, but I believe that before the end of the century the following events will occur and that they will occur more or less in the following order:

  • A rocket will go to the moon. Somewhat more propulsive power will be required than for an intercontinental ballistic missile or for a satellite, but the guidance in actually hitting the moon will be easier than hitting a specific target from 5,000 miles.
  • Scientific instruments will be landed on the moon. There is not atmosphere on the moon, so reverse thrust the moon lightly, softly. There may be deep dust on the moon, no one knows, so it may be necessary to send up several scientific instruments before one will operate.
  • A manned satellite will go around the Earth and will return to the Earth. This will lead to the possibility of transcontinental or transoceanic travel in half an hour. San Francisco to New York, New York to London, New York to Paris—in half an hour. The determinant as to whether people travel this fast will be not technology, but economics.
  • A trip around the moon and return; an opportunity, first to look at the far side with radar or television, unmanned, and then a trip around the moon and return to Earth with a man aboard.
  • A man will be landed on the moon and brought back.
  • A space platform will be established.
  • Instruments will be landed on Mars or Venus.
  • A man or men will be landed on Mars or Venus and brought back.

If I weren’t a conservative, I would say that before the end of this century two more events will take place; a permanent observation station on the moon, and interplanetary travel as a common thing.

This is only the beginning. What will happen next, I cannot even conceive. I am only sure that the rate of scientific progress will continue to increase.

The eight or ten things I have enumerated can be done. I am satisfied that before the end of the century—and maybe long before the end of the century—they will be done.

We, the United States of America, can be first. If we don not expend the thought, the effort, and the money required, then another and more progressive nation will. They will dominate space, and they will dominate the world. There is a nation with this ambition. We must not let it prevail!

From remarks by James H. Doolittle at the Aero Club of Washington’s Wright Memorial Dinner, Washington, D. C., December 17, 1957.