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Happy 50th, Sputnik!
Old 10-04-2007, 12:45 AM   #1
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Happy 50th, Sputnik!

It was 50 years ago today,
that Nikita Krushchev taught the world to play,
the Orbiting Sputnik Space Club Band!

We went out to try to see it in the night sky, never did see it. Others saw it, but now I find out 50 years later that the Russians had yet another laugh...Sputnik at 2 feet in diameter was too small to be seen by the unaided eye. What people were actually "seeing" was the second stage of the booster, which was a lot bigger! They never let on.

Man, that was a time. Those dirty Rooshkies had put something into "orbit", and it sent out a signal. Then they put a dog into orbit, and then the first man in space! What an accomplishment. What a shock, one after the other.

I remember people trying to get hold of this "orbit" idea. "But what keeps it going around and around without a motor?"

As a very young kid, this was very exciting. Whenever possible, I then started watching or looking at anything dealing with rockets and space. So much of the stuff a kid could get his hands on back then was written by people earlier in the 1950's, it was all "artist's conception" garbage. And the Russians made it all obsolete with science and fact.

Sputnik, though you never knew it, you launched a lot of kids into a wonderful world of science. Thanks for the beeps. Happy 50th!

Telly
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Old 10-04-2007, 04:52 AM   #2
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We owe a lot to those pioneers.
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Old 10-04-2007, 06:51 AM   #3
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Our future competition?
China may be next on moon

Telly, sounds like we became Nerds on the same day.

I remember Sputnik mainly because my dad, just back from his first Viet Nam, errr, vacation, tried to explain the satellite by taking an orange and sticking toothpicks in it. After a few minutes of discussion of aerodynamic drag coefficients, Earth oblateness, zonals, tesserals and harmonics, I think I said, "so it's flying like a cannonball shot from a mountain?" Exactly. Duck.

A little T-Dawg space nerd was born.
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Old 10-04-2007, 07:59 AM   #4
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I remember sputnik because I went as sputnik for halloween .My mother spray painted a box silver and attached springs and antennas to it .Great costume .
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Old 10-04-2007, 08:23 AM   #5
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I mentioned this anniversary to one of the trainers at the gym this morning. She is an apparently intelligent woman in her 40’s. “What’s that” she said. I explained what it is and she told me that she had never heard of Sputnik. She seemed unashamed, explaining that she isn’t “up on that satellite stuff”.

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Old 10-04-2007, 09:36 AM   #6
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I owe my career to Sputnik. I was just 12yo when it went up, but I decided right then and there that I wanted to work in aerospace, and to study mathematics and physics. I eventually made a career of the Air Force, and after a military retirement remained working in aerospace. I can't say I enjoyed my work each and every day, but it was that image of sputnik that kept me going through the worst times.

I remember how the US rushed into our own first satellite launch with Vanguard, to keep up with the Soviets. We staged it for the public, with real time TV and press coverage to demonstrate how we were an open society in contrast with the secretive Soviet launch. That was fine, except the first Vanguard went up about two feet, came down, and exploded in full view of the cameras. The joke then was if you could jump higher than two feet you could outperform Vanguard.

Vanguard was a Navy run program that was civilianized so it didn't appear that the first US launch was military. After that failure, Ike said heck with the pretenses, and called the Army, who had a more developed rocketry program run by Von Braun. The Army launched the first US satellite, the Explorer, on a Jupiter rocket, a variant of the Jupiter designed by Von Braun.

That set off the space race, with the Soviets putting up larger and heavier satellites, and we putting up smaller but higher tech satellites. Eventually we caught up even in the weight category and managed to beat them to the moon. Quite a story.

One funny story from back then that was declassified several years ago was that the Explorers also carried surveillance cameras that belonged to a classified program called Corona. The public story was that Explorer were only for peaceful scientific exploration of space, and some launches carried Rhesus monkey to test how animals survived the space enviroment. What few people knew was that the monkey was sitting on top of a spy camera.

One of these early flights, Explorer XIII, tested the deorbit of a capsule off Hawaii. The plan was to have the capsule loaded with film, but this first test only carried an empty capsule, and it was to be kept discreet, with a cover story that it was an Explorer scientific mission. The problem is that nobody told the program manager, Col Moose Mathison, nor was he "read in" to the real program. So old Moose thought this was a great opportunity to publicize the success of Explorer and give showcase his boss Gen Schriever. So Moose gets on a helicopter and lands on the carrier to take charge of the capsule recovery, where he gets into a near gunfight with the intelligence guys who were under orders to stay with the capsule and keep the whole thing low key. Moose gets the capsule back to Hawaii where he has lots of photo ops with the PACAF Commander, then puts it on a C130 to California for more photo ops. While on the 130 he breaks open the capsule to look at its "scientific" instrumentation, and finds it's empty. So he seals it back up and continues his photo op tour all the way to the White House, with press coverage the whole way. That capsule is now at the Smithsonian.

There's lots of stories like this about those early days of the space age. Here's a couple of links:

Early Space Age
KH-1 CORONA Return
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Old 10-04-2007, 10:42 AM   #7
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I pleased to say that I work for NASA and any old hand knows how bad the Russians were beating us. Sputnik was the first, they got animals up first, people up first and could launch at least 10X the weight we could. And they had the first robotic landing on the moon and first to Venus. The move by Pres Kennedy was to get people's attention off of what the Russians were doing and what we could not do to something that no one was doing. It is amazing what Apollo accomplished. The point where we gained on the Russians was in miniaturization and electronics. These were developed because we could not match the launch weight capacity of the Russians! Our whole electronics industry and Silicon Valley a product of our inability to match the Russians!
People look back and think we ‘won’ the space race because of Apollo and its sort of true but by many measures they were ahead. They STILL can launch more successfully (not to mention cheaply) than we can. But or our other systems are superior. And while I would like to think this was just some noble science experiment it was driven by military considerations.
But every NASA person and space buff owes a debt of gratitude to the Russian Sputnik team for what they caused to come into being.


Sputnik


Lots of good references on space history, go to Google today and see their tribute to Sputnik.
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Old 10-04-2007, 01:06 PM   #8
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Too young to remember Sputnik, but remember watching Echo satellites pass by overhead.
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Old 10-04-2007, 01:26 PM   #9
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I pleased to say that I work for NASA ...
yakers, I was on the military space side but worked with NASA guys off and on, and I agree with everything you said. The Russians achieved higher reliability in their launch vehicles because, for one thing, they kept reusing or modifying tried and true designs whereas we kept working the bleeding edge.

One thing I noted with sadness is the number of old hands that retired at NASA (and the military), and took experience with them that's hard to replace. The younger engineers are probably better trained, but so much of space work is related to experience rather than books. And, although we jumped ahead on the technology side, we're stumbling over the "simple" things like systems engineering, test, and integration. Most of the failures we've had have to do with those things rather than technology.
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Old 10-04-2007, 03:51 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Telly View Post
Sputnik at 2 feet in diameter was too small to be seen by the unaided eye. What people were actually "seeing" was the second stage of the booster, which was a lot bigger!
I enjoy watching the International Space Station. It can be seen by eye about an hour before sunrise/after sunset with the right orbital geometry, which works out to once or twice a month. During one of last year's viewings it was trailed by the shuttle setting up for a docking.

Here's the U.S. version of NASA's orbital data:
Human Space Flight (HSF) - Orbital Tracking

There are a number of other websites that will produce orbital data for many satellites viewed from any latitude/longitude.
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Old 10-04-2007, 03:56 PM   #11
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I enjoy watching the International Space Station. It can be seen by eye about an hour before sunrise/after sunset with the right orbital geometry, which works out to once or twice a month.
I took the two oldest grandsons out in the front yard last night at 8:03 to watch it fly directly overhead. The 4th grader was impressed...the kindergartener much less so.
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Old 10-06-2007, 12:44 AM   #12
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I enjoyed all the comments

I have never ever seen a kid dressed up for Halloween as a satellite!

The Echo metallized mylar balloon satellites were the first ones I actually saw.

I have used the heavensabove website for events/times/directions. I saw the Space Shuttle trailing the ISS one morning months ago.
After a few failed attempts at seeing daytime "flash" off of Iridium satellites, I gave up on that.

I was never in the Aerospace industry. Grew up in an area void of it.

However, at an early age I was Mission Control, Launch Control, Fuel Loader and Recovery Crew for the exciting launches of the Park Plastic Co. single-stage booster with Gemini capsule. Launches were from Cape Canaveral (front yard), and a good launch would be into the Stratosphere and out of the earth's shadow (cast by the 2 story house). The booster was spin-stabilized, and at maximum altitude it would lay over on it's side at 0 G, thus allowing the authentic translucent blue Gemini capsule to separate. The booster would re-enter and land in the ocean (the grass), but sometimes would crash on land (the driveway, bad), and sometimes would narrowly miss an errant hairless ape who would ignore the closure of the area to the public for safety.

The capsule would float to an ocean recovery if all went well. But sometimes there were unexpected space conditions, and the capsule could get grabbed by the Crab Nebula (one of the front trees). This could require the use of the High-Energy Kinetic Launcher (arm) to lob a projectile (tennis ball) into the Crab Nebula, which distorted the Space-Time Continuum (though I did not know that then), which freed the capsule and it's parachute.

I regret to say that the survival rate of Astronauts in this program was no better than about 75%, due to excessive experimentation concerning parachutes and their packing. Many landings simulated the Cosmonauts landing in the Soviet Steppes, but without sufficient parachute retardation.

Experimentation with the fuel mix (how much water to put in the booster) and oxidizer (amount of air pumped in) was performed. Learned early on that too much fuel created a maximum altitude of 3 feet, upon which the booster would crash land, lay on it's side, and glug water out! A space tanker!, uh, maybe not
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