MOSCOW -- A 1 1/2-ton Russian rocket was reported better than halfway on a journey to the moon today, and Radio Moscow jubilantly announced Soviet plans to establish a base there.
A brief Moscow broadcast said the rocket had reached a height of more than 200,000 kilometers (125,000 miles) "and thus covered half the distance to the moon."
The "Moonik," which the Russians said should reach the vicinity of the moon at 11 p.m. e.s.t. tonight, was reported on course and going like clockwork early today, 24 hours after it was launched.
Meanwhile, an English-language broadcast on Moscow Radio said the next step in the Soviet bid to conquer space would be the establishment of a base on the moon, 240,000 miles from earth.
Seven miles per second
"Preparations will be made to equip an expedition to the moon which would establish an observatory and an intermediate base there for future space flight," the Moscow broadcast said.
Western observers believed, however, that it would be some time before anyone -- East or West -- could send men to the moon with any assurance that they could return alive.
The Russians said the rocket was traveling at 11.2 kilometers -- about 7 miles -- a second in its race to reach the moon, a goal which the United States has been unable in four attempts so far to achieve.
(U.S. rocket experts said the Soviet launching indicates the Russians are about a year ahead of the United States in adapting engines designed for intercontinental ballistic missiles for use in space exploration.
(They said America's Atlas ICBM, which extra stages added for space-probe purposes, could send a payload as big as that of the Russian rocket to the vicinity of the moon. They added, however, that the Atlas may not be ready for use in multi-stage space experiments until late 1959.
Calls for Speed-up
(Rep. Overton Brooks (D-La.), a top-ranking member of the House Space Committee, said today the Soviet achievement proves that the U.S. space program "should be pushed to the utmost.")
The speed of the Soviet rocket is necessary to overcome the pull of the earth's gravity during the early stages of the flight. It was scheduled to drop off from 35,000 m.p.h. to about 2,000 in mid-flight and speed up against as it approached the moon.
The Moonik's final stage, weighing a record 3,038 pounds compared with Sputnik III's 2,910, was expected to be visible at 3 p.m. Moscow time today over extensive areas of Siberia, China and India.
Russia's high-altitude observatory near Alma Ata reported that it had taken several photographs of a sodium flare released by the rocket when it was 62,000 miles up, shortly before 4 a.m. Moscow time.
The official statement on the launching said the rocket carried special instruments to create a luminous sodium cloud, giving the rocket a sort of "comet's tail," which should be visible for 2 to 5 minutes in the vicinity of the constellation Virgo.
Signals from the rocket, sounding like a telephone dial tone, were picked up at scattered points throughout the world. They were being broadcast on 19,907, 19,995 and 183.6 megacycles.
Rocket well marked
The transmitters were included among the 795 pounds of instruments comprising the rocket's "payload."
Other instruments carried by the rocket were designed to measure the moon's magnetic field, to study the intensity of cosmic radiation outside the earth's magnetic field, to register photons in cosmic radiation, to check the moon's radioactivity and study the gas components of interplanetary matter corpuscular solar radiation and meteoric particles.
The Russian space scientists also packed an unspecified number of red flags described as "pennants with the coat of arms of the U.S.S.R. and the inscription "Union of Soviet-Socialist Republics, January, 1959."
Russia's man-in-the-street didn't hear the first word of his country's achievement unless he was a stay-up-late. The first report was carried in a special radio broadcast at 1:15 a.m.
Radio Moscow's domestic service stayed on the air for the broadcast instead of signing off as usual at midnight.
Banner headlines on Moscow newspapers proclaimed "The Great Victory of the Creative Genius of Soviet Man." Some headlines called the moon probe the "first unsuccessful interplanetary flight."
Newspapers elsewhere in Europe also gave the story banner headlines, usually without editorial comment because it broke so late.
(An exception was London's Communist Daily Worker, which apparently had "gone to bed" before the story broke. The Worker was the only newspaper int he British capital which had no story today on the Russian rocket."
The moonshot report not he radio was accompanied by music and patriotic songs. The radio stayed on the air all night, carrying progress reports on the lunar shot almost every hour along with the comments of Soviet scientists.
Today's broadcasts reported dancing in the streets at the news that the rocket was halfway to the moon.