With one eye on the earth and the other on the earthly benefits of aerospace employment, California Gov. Edmund J. (Jerry) Brown Jr. today proclaimed the advent of the space age.
Standing before an banner that declared, "California and the Space Age - an era of possibilities." Brown invoked the spirit of Columbus, fear of the Soviets and the specter of rising unemployment as he called for California to lead the nation into "the everlasting frontier of space.
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Brown stopped short of being the first governor to announce the launching of his own satellite, but he told reporters that it is quite conceivable that California will one day have a satellite of its very own.
The possibilities for state satellite use are "endless," Brown said. He cited the use of communications satellites for classroom instruction, police hookups and monitoring of the state's scarce water resources.
Warming to his theme, Brown said that exploration of space its necessary to save the human species because it diverts man's aggressive instinct away from war, Brown said the "democratic fabric had been jeopardized" by the closing down of the frontier and man's turning inward.
"I don't happen to think that the frontier is closed," he said. "It's just opening up in space."
The scene for all this was a hangar-like exhibition hall at the California Museum of Science and Industry, where Brown and a host of scientists and officials of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration celebrated "Space Day," and event promulgated by Brown and sponsored by 11 Bank of California. It was a prelude to the first free-flight of the space shuttle orbiter "Enterprise" over the Mojave Desert Friday.
An admiring throng of 1,000 crowded into the hall among exhibits of old rockets, and early experimental aircraft and aerospace company displays, including a practical one from Rockwell International, which was headed, "Space for down-to-earth benefits."
"This the best thing since 'Star Wars,'" one person aid approvingly.
The day's events included two realistic space movies and speeches by author Carl Sagan on exploration of the planets, physicist Gerald O'Niell on space colonies and Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the underseas explorer, on the relationships between space flight and the oceans of the world.
Beyond the scientific speeches and the movies, two themes emerged. One was that California, which Brown said now has 50 per cent of NASA's contracts, is economically dependent upon the aerospace industry. The other is that Brown is prepared to make a political challenge to President Carter, possibility in conjunction with other "Sun Belt" political leaders, if there is any attempt to cut back on NASA's budget.
"If we don't strengthen the constitutency for space, there are going to be thousands of people out of work and economic dislocation in this state," Brown told reporters. "There is a national debate that is going to occur on whether to jettison major expansion of space for some other problems."
Chairman of the "Space Day" symposium was Appollo astronaut Russell (Rusty) Schweickart, who has been on loan from NASA to Brown for the past several months as an aerospace adviser, Schweickart said he expected to continue in this role, especially if California pursues a satellite program.