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Fifty Years Ago Today


On October 4, 1957 people all over the world tuned in to hear the beeping from the first man-made object to orbit the planet, Простейший Спутник-1 [Elementary Satellite 1].

NASA has a WAV file of the sound at their site on Sputnik.

The BBC has a Q&A: Sputnik and check out the Russian Space Web [in English, if you insist].

The Space Race was on, and we referred to the competition as a race, not the War on Space.


1 fallenmonk { 10.04.07 at 7:55 am }

Thanks for reminding us. I remember my Dad tuning in the beeping for my brother and I to listen to. He was not very pleased that the Russians beat us into space if I recall.

2 Bryan { 10.04.07 at 10:33 am }

As my Dad worked in the field, his reaction was more along the lines of “maybe now we’ll get some funding.”

3 Steve Bates { 10.04.07 at 4:07 pm }

Fifty years of orbital adventures… it seems like yesterday to me.

I remember that sound; in fact, I have a desk fan today that makes a sound very much like that. Seriously, I was about a year or two away from getting my first amateur radio license, getting pretty good with a key in my hand, and I remember thinking that someone with a really good ear and clever mind should be able to copy the transmission manually. OK, it wasn’t really that slow, but the thought crossed my mind.

A bit about the “race”: a decade or so later, with the race well underway and planning for Moon flights quite active here and in the USSR, the purveyors of Star Trek had to be reminded… by someone other than their writers… that it would be appropriate if they added a Russian to the crew of the Enterprise. Feh… they should have thought of it in the first place.

Those were heady days. I was young, my nation had a goal other than dominating the planet, and all of space was before us (as we thought).

I know you guys have done much more, but I did at least eventually realize my dream of putting my mark on the space program, as a contractor, writing a tiny app for Mission Control to use in tracking everyone’s training and certification statuses on all the various consoles. Hey, I said it was tiny, and transient, as with any piece of technology. But at least I was there.

(Regarding that site: I don’t insist on English; far from it. I do need English if you expect me to read it, though. :))

4 Bryan { 10.04.07 at 4:45 pm }

From each according to their ability, Steve. They also serve who generate the paperwork and paychecks.

There are a lot of jobs that seem minor when you fly, but if they aren’t done properly things can become extremely “interesting.”

[The fun you miss by not reading the Russian version is the pompous and absurd “socialist realist” style you learn to mock when reading official Russian. Doing word-for-word translations of Pravda or Red Star are instant satire. They really wrote things like “mightily striving with every sinew for the fulfillment of Comrade Khrushchev’s five-year plan for the betterment of the proletariat in the improved production of sparkplugs.” Sparkplug production was a real problem, BTW, and caused hundreds of tractors to rust in the fields for a lack of replacements.]