September 29, 1962
An electronic "black box" the size of a box of paper napkins, may precede man to the moon and planets to check the safety of their environments, SCIENCE SERVICE learned.
In a pre-manned probe to the moon, the small device would be set down to automatically gather samples of moon dust into a tiny tube, and insert it in one of its 50 compartments. A built-in electronic scanner then would view the contents of the tube and transmit coded information about the substance back to earth.
The contents of the tube would be read as a tracing or pattern on a graph. Scientists in the earth-based receiving laboratory station could then compare this pattern with those of the many thousands of known living organisms.
The characteristics of the pattern would indicate to a biologist whether the space sample resembled terrestrial matter ranging from bacteria up to pieces of animal matter, and whether it was dangerous to human life.
The sample gathering and scanning would be controlled by a signal from earth from 35 million to 250 million miles away.
If bad reception interferes with transmission from space to earth, no harm is done since the scanner also stores the data on tape and plays it back when conditions improve. The instrument, named Bio-telescanner by its designer, Dr. William G. Glenn, immuno-biologist with the School of Aerospace Medicine at Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, also can be used by the astronaut in flight to analyze his blood or urine to monitor the level of his resistance to possible infections.
Wesley E. Prather, electronics engineer at the School, worked with Dr. Glenn on the design of the Bio-telescanner.
News Letter, 82:209 September 29, 1962
Original Caption by Science Service