Why Explore Space?

In 1970, a Zambia-based nun named Sister Mary Jucunda wrote to Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, then-associate director of science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in response to his ongoing research into a piloted mission to Mars. Specifically, she asked how he could suggest spending billions of dollars on such a project at a time when so many children were starving on

Yours in distress, Alan

Alan Turing was a human being of exceptional intelligence — a mathematical genius — and worked as one of the leading code-breakers during World War II. He is also considered to be the “father of modern computing” thanks to his pioneering work in the field of computer science. In 1950, before the term “Artificial Intelligence” had been coined, he posed

I love my wife. My wife is dead.

Richard Feynman was one of the best-known and most influential physicists of his generation. In the 1940s, he played a part in the development of the atomic bomb; in 1986, as a key member of the Rogers Commission, he investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and identified its cause; in 1965, he and two colleagues

I am volunteering for the “Man in Space” program

On May 5th of 1961, Alan Shepard became the second person — and first American — to enter space, just three weeks after Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth. The following amazing letter was written by Shepard to his parents two years before, and marks the very first announcement of his plans to volunteer for the “Man

I think I no how to make people or animals alive

In June of 1973, spurred on by the recent discovery of a dying bird in his garden, 9-year-old Anthony Hollander wrote to the presenters of the BBC’s much-loved children’s television show, Blue Peter, and asked for assistance in his quest to “make people or animals alive.” Below is his letter, and the encouraging response written by the programme’s

Tesla’s Death Ray

In his later years, the supremely gifted Nikola Tesla announced to the public the ongoing development of Teleforce, a stunningly powerful, highly controversial new invention that was to act as an instrument of national defense. Dubbed ‘The Death Ray’ by press, Tesla’s charged particle beam weapon promised, initially via a 1934 New York Times article: [to]

I am excited about going into space

In 1985, having been selected by NASA from a pool of thousands, 37-year-old social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe began preparations in an effort to become the first ‘teacher in space’. The project was the result of a very successful effort by the U.S. government to provoke wider public interest in the STS-51-L space program, and

Ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla

On January 4th, 1943, Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic wrote the following heartfelt letter to ex-President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The letter concerned the alarming treatment and general well-being of Adamic’s friend, Nikola Tesla; an immeasurably important inventor whose impact on the modern world is still difficult to appreciate and who, despite his numerous

An idiot of the 33rd degree

In November of 1905, an enraged Mark Twain sent the following superb letter to J. H. Todd, a salesman who had just attempted to sell bogus medicine to the author by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature Twain received, the “medicine” in question — called “The Elixir of

We have a message from another world

In the summer of 1899, while alone in his Colorado Springs laboratory working with his magnifying transmitter, the inimitable Nikola Tesla observed a series of unusual rhythmic signals which he described as “counting codes.” Having just detected cosmic radio signals for the first time, Tesla immediately believed them to be attempted communications from an intelligent

Houdini’s Last Trick

At New York’s Shelton Hotel on August 5th, 1926, in plain view of invited journalists and using no breathing apparatus, Harry Houdini lay in a sealed casket at the bottom of a swimming pool for an hour and a half. His motivation for the feat was the opportunity to expose Egyptian fakir Rahman Bey, a

Einstein’s One Great Mistake

On August 2nd, 1939, after consultation with fellow physicists Leó Szilárd and Eugene Wigner, Albert Einstein signed the following letter to then-U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt. The letter warned that the construction of an atomic bomb using uranium was indeed possible, advised the U.S. Government to invest time and money into its research, and then hinted that

The word God is the product of human weakness

In January of 1954, just a year before his death, Albert Einstein wrote the following letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind after reading his book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt,” and made known his views on religion. Apparently Einstein had only read the book due to repeated recommendation by their mutual friend Luitzen Egbertus

TO A TOP SCIENTIST

In 1957, following the announcement that the Soviets had trumped the U.S. with the successful launch of Sputnik 1, Australian schoolboy Denis Cox urgently sent the above letter to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Rocket Range at Woomera, in an attempt to enter Australia into the Space Race. Much to Denis’ dismay, his letter, addressed