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monsoon

Sputnik I

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It got little mention in the USA, but the rest of the world is celebrating the 50 year anniversary of the launch of Sputnik I, by the Soviet Union. This was the first man made object placed into orbit on October 4, 1957. The event launched the start of the modern space age and astonished most people on the planet who took to listening for its radio signal with fairly simple equipment.

The event stunned Americans who felt they were the most technologically advanced nation on earth and placed enormous political pressure on President Eisenhower to develop a missile program. Pundants of the day made the claim that if the Soviets could put a satellite into space, they could put an atomic bomb on one too. Gladly, none of the these dire predictions came true.

Sputnik was the brainchild of Sergey Korolyov, also considered the father of he Soviet Space program. Sadly while he was alive, his role on the Sputnik was never acknowledged. The Russians believed the Eisenhower administration had ordered the CIA to assassinate the leadership of the Soviet space program so opted to keep his name secret until after he passed away several years later.

It took the Russians to show us a better way and hopefully we will experience another age of discovery, adventure and excitement over learning science and technology, that took place in the next couple of decades after the launch.

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Sputnik had articles in Time Magazine and US News & World Report this week. It has also taken the traditional place of the Wright Brother's plane in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

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NPR has been going on and on about this all week. BEEP BEEP BEEP. It is also the 50th Anniversary of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) which was intended to allow scientists from around the world to take part in a series of coordinated observations of various geophysical phenomena. When the International Council of Scientific Unions proposed IGY in 1952, it adopted a resolution calling for artificial satellites to be launched during it to map the Earth's surface. Donald hagen wrote a song about it in 1982 (I love Steely Dan, BTW) which has always been of my favorites. Lots of great discoveries took place during the IGY (the Van Allen radiation belts, for example), furthering the fantastic ideas of what the future (our today) would be like. hagen's song makes note of how great our future was to be:

On that train all graphite and glitter

Undersea by rail

Ninety minutes from New York to Paris

(More leisure for artists everywhere)

A just machine to make big decisions

Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision

We'll be clean when their work is done

We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be

What a glorious time to be free

Edit note: for some unknown reason, the board won't allow me to spell Donald hagen's name. It keeps taking out the "F" and inserts a lower-case "h".

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Interestingly enough, the age of space exploration was very brief. The last time that humans left the pull of earth's gravity (left earth orbit) was in 1972 when Apollo 17 made the last trip to the moon. This was so long ago that most humans living on the planet are too young to remember the momentous event and people have generally lost interest in this sort of thing.

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Will the next President (and possibly the one after) take up President Bush's objective of returning to the moon?

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Will the next President (and possibly the one after) take up President Bush's objective of returning to the moon?

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Will the next President (and possibly the one after) take up President Bush's objective of returning to the moon?

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Are we any different than the paranoid, ultra conservative 1950s when Sputnik was launched? You be the judge.

Apparently Google changed it's logo to this on Oct 4th in celebration of Sputnik.

21ovtpw.jpg

This act has cause many "conservatives" in the USA to become simply unglued with anger at Google for celebrating this accomplishment because it was the Soviet Union that did it. Read more here.

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