Physicist and astronomer Bernard Lovell describes the competition between Russia and America to dominate the exploration of space.

With so much money being spent by Russia and the USA on their space programmes and millions of people living in poverty on earth, Bill O'Herlihy asks Bernard Lovell,

What's the point of it all?

Bernard Lovell says that the United States of America is spending about five thousand million dollars a year on the space programme, a small proportion of what is being spent on defence. The US Air Force alone has a budget which is at least 12 times the amount being spent on the space programme. The space programme budget represents 2.5 per cent of national income. He believes that the world will benefit from investment in this research and development.

As an astronomer, Bernard Lovell is absolutely fascinated by the scientific potential of the American and Russian space programmes.

They will eventually tell us a great deal more about the environment of the earth.

The programme will also inform us about whether life on earth is unique and whether or not we are alone in the universe.

He acknowledges that there are political, prestige and military aspects to the space race.

Bernard Lovell acknowledges the secrecy around the exploration of space particularly by both Russia and the US. Despite potential dangers, he says that there is no evidence of any loss of life and enormous safeguards have been put in place by both the Americans and the Russians.

As the race continues, Mr Lovell sees both the Americans and the Russians on an equal standing with both having achieved soft moon landings. He says it is inevitable that the Americans will achieve their stated objective to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

The great question is whether the Americans will get there before the Russians.

This episode of 'Newsbeat' was broadcast on 19 January 1967. The reporter is Bill O'Herlihy.