Thursday, October 04, 2007

Happy Sputnik Day!

Sputnik cup holder
Originally uploaded by m5.
Thanks, Ron, for reminding me of this landmark.

New York Times: It's difficult to recapture the sense of paranoia and self-doubt that Sputnik created in the U.S., but the New York Times' coverage of that week helps a bit.

Ron adds:

The ‘New York Times’: Spreading paranoia and self-doubt for fifty years! :) (At least.)

And counting.

New York Times: After all, the first step into space was an achievement that transcended politics.

Bwah hah hah, I say, and furthermore, chortle. Ron observes:

Tell that ‘un to Wernher von Braun. He probably could have put ‘Explorer 1’ up a coupla months before ‘Sputnik,’ except that Dwight Eisenhower insisted America’s first satellite go up on a ‘civilian’ booster.


Anonymous said...

It’s easy to criticize Eisenhower for insisting that the first satellite be launched on a ‘civilian’ booster, but it occurred to me -- thinking about it -- that there may have been a deeper game being played here: Technically, an Earth-orbiting satellite violates the ‘airspace’ of every country it passes over.

It’s a settled issue now, but a hot topic back in the late Fifties. And the United States was regularly violating the airspace of the Soviet Union at that time: Penetrating flights by RB-45 and RB-47 reconnaissance bombers. Floating giant balloons across the USSR from west to east, taking photos as they went. And, starting in 1956, flying U-2 spy planes over Russia. Eisenhower was just about desperate to get any hard information on Soviet advances in and production of bombers, missiles, etc. And the Soviets were equally wild to shoot the spies down.

Passage of an American satellite over Soviet territory would probably have led to some acrimonious sessions at the UN and talk about ‘bandit moons,’ at the least. It would have helped if the U.S. ambassador to the UN could say, ‘Hey, it’s a civilian project.’

As things happened, the Soviets did it first so they could hardly complain when ‘Explorer 1’ passed over their territory.

Nor could they squawk when the first ‘Corona’ photo-reconnaissance satellites started their first comprehensive coverage of the Soviet Union just a little over two years later (after thirteen straight failures).


Daniel said...

From Overheard in the Office:

HS Teacher: Does anybody know what Sputnik was?
Student: That's, like, a dog, right?