Happy Birthday Sputnik.
I wasn’t there to see, but I’m glad it happened. Today marks the 50th anniversary of Sputnik.
50 years. This first man-made satellite of the earth. Heck, 50 years before that we were riding horses. 50 years before that we were fighting dinosaurs and dragging women into our cave over our shoulder.
It’s always strange to listen to old broadcasts and hear it called a satellite. Not because of the definition – that’s exactly what it is, but because it’s the only word they could have chosen to describe this thing. There were not yet any spacey-words to describe things in space, and the grab-bag of space dialect contained few other choices. There were no Orbiters, Lunar Modules, Command Modules, or any other further descriptive one-word name you can think of. Only the minds of children reading science fiction were prepared to ingest this new dialect of the space-cowboy, Buck Rogers-type elite – “space jabber”.
My Director recounts a childhood experience that expanded his view of the scope of space. “I just couldn’t beleive the enormity of what I was seeing”. As a child in the depths of an Irish neighborhood, his father took him outside to look. Ireland would have had a spectacular view. He remembers looking up where his father was pointing. Although he knows that the path of the was a parabolic line across the sky, he recounts seeing it zig-zag through the stars – probably an effect by searching and re-acquiring the the bright spot amongst the background of millions of pinpoints in the unpolluted clear sky.
The media chose the only word they had in the armament of the satisfying the public’s thirst for information on the threat from the Soviet Union. A satellite.
That’s the most generic word you can use for anything concerning space. That’s what everything that orbits our earth is. Heck, the moon is a satellite. Technically, even the Shuttle is a satellite.
4th of October year 1957
“Soviet handmade satellite of the Earth – First in the world”
USSR Postal Service; price of stamp is 40 kopeek ( like 40 cents).
Thanks to Alexandre B. for Translation
Here’s the short-blurb on Sputnik:
Sputnik 1 was launched on October 4, 1957. The satellite was a sphere 58 cm in diameter and weighed about 83.6 kg. It was launched into an elliptical orbit which took 96 minutes to completely go around. Monitoring of the satellite was done by Amateur radio operators. This was actually very clever, because no space agency at the time had the capability to syncronise world operations. The sound that the radio inside the little sphere spit out was on a frequency that was very accessible by the equipment available to amatuer radio hobbyists (HAM Radio).
Have a listen to the eerie sound of the first radio broadcast from space on 20.007 MHz. CLICK HERE to listen to the recording.
One little known fact about Sputnik, is that nobody really knows what happened to it. There’s a piece of it in a museum, but that wasn’t something that actually flew into outer space. Studies suggest that the spheroid could have survived re-entry after being slowed in it’s decaying orbit by the drag of earth’s atmosphere. Who knows, someone may stumble across it in a feild one day. It could also be in the ocean.
Another interesting thing is that the larger sustainer stage tumbling through space behind the Sputnik satellite remained in orbit for 882 revolutions, and fell on December 2. Corner reflectors installed on the rocket had permitted its accurate tracking with radar. The sustainer stage was a bright object, observed by many people and generally mistaken for the satellite itself, which was only barely visible.
Here is a fantastic link with great pictures about the engineering and schematics of the Sputnik-1 satellite: http://www.mentallandscape.com/S_Sputnik1.htm
Other great sites: