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Observatory Director Refuses to Comment About Sputnik 'Crash'


Dr. J. Allen Hynek, director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, last night refused to verify a report that the rocket of Sputnik I would crash to earth sometime today.

"Until we have further evidence and information, we can say no more," Hynek stated. "We are awaiting information with interest, and we have not as yet alerted the Moonwatch team for a special death watch."

The report that the period of the rocket around the earth was decreasing came from Jordell Bank, a radio telescope observatory in Cheshire, England. A cable sent to Hynek stated: "Rocket period decreasing rapidly. Expect entry (into the earth's atmosphere) within 24 hours."

Jodrell Bank based its prediction on the fact that the rocket's period suddenly dropped nearly three minutes, seemingly indicating that it was nearing the earth. However, this observation aroused some skepticism on the part of the trained observers, who recalled previous incidents erroneously reporting the rocket was reentering the atmosphere.

American rocket progress also aroused comment yesterday at the Observatory. The Air Force announced that small aluminum pellets, about the size of beebees, were shot from the nose of an Aerobee rocket 54 miles above earth "in an effort to gain information about outer space."

John S. Rinehart, assistant director of the Astrophysical Institute and consultant to the projects, said that this experiment was intended for research in the upper atmosphere. The pellets reached a speed of about 33,000 miles per hour, and some may have escaped the earth's gravitational field.

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