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Space Science

50 Years Ago, Sputnik Was an Improvised Triumph 252

Posted by kdawson
from the gum-and-baling-wire dept.
caffiend666 sends in an AP article featuring interviews with the old men who launched the first satellite 50 year ago. The story they tell hinges on luck and the drive of one man, Sergei Korolyov, who died in 1966, unheralded in his lifetime. "When Sputnik took off 50 years ago, the world gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, watching what seemed like the unveiling of a sustained Soviet effort to conquer space and score a stunning Cold War triumph. But 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West... 'At that moment we couldn't fully understand what we had done,' Chertok recalled. 'We felt ecstatic about it only later, when the entire world ran amok'... And that winking light that crowds around the globe gathered to watch in the night sky? Not Sputnik at all, as it turns out, but just the second stage of its booster rocket."
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50 Years Ago, Sputnik Was an Improvised Triumph

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  • by ChePibe (882378) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:40AM (#20807993)
    Who were, and remain, worthy competitors and partners as we reach to the stars.

    Congratulations are due on the anniversary of this achievement and to their many achievements since. May they have many more, and may they help elevate this world and all that are in it.
      • Ha! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ChePibe (882378) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:55AM (#20808037)
        Yes, yes, I know!

        I'm actually quite capitalistic, but one must give credit where credit is due. The Russians did a great deal to bring us to where we are today in terms of space exploration. One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind, not just the accomplishment of one tribe trying to best another. The likelihood of this occurring is, of course, quite small, but one can dream.

        I mean, just think about it - these guys put an object in orbit. It's common place today, I know, but to think that they were able to get it to work the first time still amazes me.

        Excellent work, comrades. Excellent work!
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Arancaytar (966377)

          One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind, not just the accomplishment of one tribe trying to best another.


          "I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter."

          (This comment is intended to substitute for a +1 Insightful.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bentcd (690786)

          One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind, not just the accomplishment of one tribe trying to best another. The likelihood of this occurring is, of course, quite small, but one can dream.

          Events like this tend to be glorified over time. The good parts get remembered and the bad parts get forgotten or dismissed as "the spirit of the times" or "we shouldn't judge their actions by modern standards" etc. So long as communism remains a non-threat (and thus there is no political necessity to vilify it) I think any bribes will be soundly forgotten 2,000 years from now :-)

        • Re:Ha! (Score:5, Informative)

          by hey! (33014) on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:43AM (#20808471) Homepage Journal

          I'm actually quite capitalistic, but one must give credit where credit is due.


          You mean, to the government? After all it was one state sponsored program against another. The US program had the advantage of the wealth generated by an efficient economy though.
        • by Arthur B. (806360)
          Putting satellites in orbit, building huge pyramids ... sure its great but it was all done with slave labor. Walking on the moon was done in a much more humane way, with tax slaves.

          Wouldn't these achievements be much greater if they were the product of voluntary human cooperation?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by upside (574799)
        Hey, it's the ghost of Truman coming back from the 50s.

        *prepares Dispell Ghost of Truman spell*

        Begone! The Cold War is over! Your rhetoric rings hollow with no potency or power to incite passion. Begone and take your empty words with you!

        Dude, you must invoke the Words of Might "Terrorist", "Microsoft", "patents" or maybe "emacs" to get a reaction here.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rvw (755107)

          Dude, you must invoke the Words of Might "Terrorist", "Microsoft", "patents" or maybe "emacs" to get a reaction here.
          That's all negative. Here are some positive "Words of Might": Open source, Apple, Vim, Linux and let's not forget: boobs!
          • by dintech (998802) on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:22AM (#20808149)
            Linux and let's not forget: boobs!

            Congratulations for getting 'linux' and 'boobs' into the same sentence. I don't think that's ever been achieved before.
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by sqldr (838964)
              Congratulations for getting 'linux' and 'boobs' into the same sentence. I don't think that's ever been achieved before.

              Whereas 'congratulations' and 'boobs' in the same sentence is something that Pamela Anderson is becoming increasingly tired of.
              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by dintech (998802)
                Whereas 'congratulations' and 'boobs' in the same sentence is something that Pamela Anderson is becoming increasingly tired of.

                And congratulations to you too for getting from Linux to Pamela Anderson. Albeit via the unusual route of 'boobs'.
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by jitterman (987991)
              I hate to correct you, but I have heard this at least twice directed to me and a co-worker: "Hey, you Linux boobs, get back to work!"
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by gstoddart (321705)

              Congratulations for getting 'linux' and 'boobs' into the same sentence. I don't think that's ever been achieved before.

              Are you kidding? Switching to Linux is '92 or so streamlined my downloading of images of boobs and provided me with uudecode and xv to see them. (Multiple command lines in X windows, sharing a dialup connection with SLIP, each downloading parts of a series of images so they could be re-assembled -- astonishing technology at the time.)

              I'm utterly certain that Linux and Boobs have been in t

      • by kestasjk (933987)
        Silence! They were right to not give any commendation to the men responsible for Sputnik; all men are equal after all! The guys who designed the first satellite probably just.. controlled the means of production, or something..
    • by OriginalArlen (726444) on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:54AM (#20808265)
      Here's an excellent book on the Soviet space program [amazon.com], written waay back in 1981; I picked it up in a second hand shop a few years later and was completely engrossed. Oberg's ability to stitch together a fairly comprehensive history of the then still highly secretive Soviet spac program from public open source material is excellent, and the revelations about the early catastrophes (like the launch pad explosion that wiped out 200 of the best launch technicians and engineers they had, plus the head of the entire ICBM program, and the tragic deaths of various cosmonauts) were amazing to me, 20 years ago anyway.
      • by Xiaran (836924)
        I second you on that. I read that book when I was in the six grade(my dad owned it... he is a space nut). Even for someone not interested in space or technology should find that a fascinating read for the stories of how the communists actually ran things. Some things were pretty insane. And you get the find out why Khrushchev was really banging his shoe on that table :)
    • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday October 01, 2007 @11:30AM (#20810813) Homepage Journal
      Other Soviet space achievements include but not limited to:

      * First mammal in space (dog)
      * First human in space
      * First human to orbit earth
      * First images of far-side of the moon
      * First images from surface of moon (lander)
      * First landing and images from surface of another planet (Venus)
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:45AM (#20808009)
    When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor.

    It's kinda easier if you only have to announce launches AFTER they were successful. If it ain't, it's a test launch. Just like a lot of people play Minigolf.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mahmud (254877)

      When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor.
      Isn't this one of the main tenets of Hacker Philosophy - to play around with technology and see where that gets you?
      • All fine, but I don't put a human being on top of my code. If I did, I would probably not just "give it a shot" when it's kinda-sorta complete.
    • by Cyberax (705495) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:59AM (#20808049)
      Actually, a lot of Russian space technology was built on old technologies and as a result was quite reliable. For example, the R-7 rocket used to launch Sputnik used technologies from 20-s and there's a story that burning logs were used to ignite the first stage engines. But at the same time computer modeling (yes, even at that time!) was used to compute boosters parameters.

      BTW, R-7 and its successors have become the most successful launch systems so far.
      • by JasterBobaMereel (1102861) on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:22AM (#20808365)
        Just ask NASA who could rescue a shuttle stuck in orbit before they ran out of air/water/food, not NASA they couldn't get their "reusable" shuttle in orbit in less than 56 days, whereas the Russians sensibly had a Soyuz or Progress craft on standby at all times to mount a rescue of their Cosmonauts?
      • Actually, a lot of Russian space technology was built on old technologies and as a result was quite reliable
        they also used a launch vehicle with 30! engines; failing catastrophically of course.
      • by Blain (264390)
        Another example of this was their response to needing to build electronics that could withstand vacuum -- instead, they built their electronics into chambers that were pressurized. Or using pencils instead of designing pens with pressurized ink reservoirs that could write without weight.

        After WWII, when Peenemunde was liberated, the Americans got the scientists and some of the parts of the V2s, and the Soviets got the engineers and the machinery for producing the V2s. I think that has something to do with
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BuR4N (512430)
      "When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor"

      Please look again:
      http://www.amazon.com/Soviet-Space-Race-Apollo/dp/0813026288 [amazon.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Are you trying to tell me that the innovative new business model of "if it builds and fits together, launch it" was not invented by microsoft after all?
    • When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor.


      When developing software, saying "It builds without errors" means the product is ready for Production!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Opportunist (166417)
        Now that I have your attention, what's the deal now with Vista SP1? Or are you in another department at MS?
    • When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor. It's kinda easier if you only have to announce launches AFTER they were successful.

      To be fair, the US was also in trial-and-error stage in the early days. Rockets would often blow up on the launch-pad, and the US Ranger moon mission took 7 tries, SEVEN tries, before they had a success (which is a fascinating story in itself, BTW).
    • by arivanov (12034)
      That is not just space program philosophy. That is design philosophy, engineering and mentality as a nation.

      It was the English to write "Coming home on a Wing and a Prayer". Nowdays, nobody in the UK can even remember the words of it. As a comparison just ask a Russian about "Hvost probit, bak gorit, no machina letit na chestnom slove i na odnom kr'le" (that is the russian version). While they have not written the song it fitted their mentality so well that they sing it till today (and claim it to be their
  • Sounds of Sputnik (Score:5, Informative)

    by gbobeck (926553) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:46AM (#20808013) Homepage Journal
    Amsat.org has a page which features a little blurb as well as sounds from the first satellites. For Sputnik, there are two signal recordings.

    See http://www.amsat.org/amsat/features/sounds/firstsat.html [amsat.org]
    This page has the two recordings both in .wav and .ra formats.
  • uhm ... wait ... (annoyed grunt)
  • by NoNeeeed (157503) <slash@paullea[ ].co.uk ['der' in gap]> on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:50AM (#20808027) Homepage
    This week's book of the week on Radio 4 is "Red Moon Rising", which is all about the building of Sputnik.

    Available on Listen Again each day: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/book_week.shtml [bbc.co.uk]
  • by E++99 (880734)

    "The Earth is a sphere, and its first satellite also must have a spherical shape"

    Ooookay.
  • The effects.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iknownuttin (1099999) on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:12AM (#20808115)
    "We didn't believe that you would outpace the Americans with your satellite, but you did it. Now you should launch something new by Nov. 7," Korolyov quoted Khrushchev telling him, according to Grechko.

    And then America got their ass in gear and realized that science is important and started a program that vastly improved science education and learning science became the "cool" thing to do.

    There were some benefits in the existence of the Soviet Union.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by servognome (738846)

      And then America got their ass in gear and realized that science is important and started a program that vastly improved science education and learning science became the "cool" thing to do.
      It wasn't about cool, it was about patriotism and fear. If communism was "superior" then other countries might adopt it; not to mention the strategic benefits of putting stuff in space like cameras, nuclear weapons, etc.
    • by IvyKing (732111) on Monday October 01, 2007 @10:46AM (#20810207)
      Werner von Braun's group launched a rokect in early 1956 that could have reached orbit if it had a fourth stage - no fourth stage was installed on the express orders of Eisenhower. Ike's reasoning was that if the Soviets launched first, their satellites would overfly the US first and thus the Soviets would have been in no position to complain about US satellites overflying the Soviet Union.


      The top US space priority in the late 1950's was developing photo recconnaisance under cover of the Discoverer program.

    • And then America got their ass in gear and realized that science is important and started a program that vastly improved science education and learning science became the "cool" thing to do.

      And then Asia did the same thing, flooding the market with engineers the same way they did Walmart toys, making sci/tech cheap and NON-cool again. Asia did a "Niksput" on us.
         
  • by lessgravity (314124) on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:35AM (#20808191)
    Sputnik was a wonderful achievement and deserves to be commemorated. Read here 10 ways you can commemorate Sputnik:
    http://rocketry.wordpress.com/2007/09/27/all-things-sputnik/ [wordpress.com]
  • by theonetruekeebler (60888) on Monday October 01, 2007 @06:55AM (#20808275) Homepage Journal
    I gotta quit reading motorcycle blogs just before reading Slashdot. All I could think was you had a satellite that leaked oil and every time it was in Earth's shadow the electrics would fail. I guess it really was like a 1960s Triumph -- you get it started once and take the hell off, and hope to God it stays running for the whole trip.
    • Reminds me of when, (way back when), I stopped by a stranded Yamaha biker who immediately said, "Great, you're on a Triumph so you *must* have a good toolkit!" He was right, of course...
  • BBC Space Race (Score:3, Informative)

    by Cee (22717) on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:03AM (#20808313)
    In case you haven't seen the BBC docu-drama Space Race [wikipedia.org], watch it.
    • by Cyberax (705495)
      I watched it. It contains A LOT of factual errors.

      Better read Chertok's memoirs (http://www.astronautix.com/articles/chemoirs.htm) and his book "Rockets and people" (unfortunately, I can't find its translation in Internet, but I know it exists) if you want to know about Russian space program.
  • by TrueJim (107565) on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:23AM (#20808369) Homepage
    "In the end, it was the Americans who won the race to the moon, nearly 22 years later."

            22 years! What?

            I guess TFA meant 12 years.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2007 @07:53AM (#20808517)
    First, "the world" did not "gaze at the heavens in awe and apprehension" as Sputnik orbited. America gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, but as Americans often need reminding, America is not the entire world.

    Second, in the 1950s everyone was shitting themselves over the prospect of a global thermonuclear holocaust, and so the whole space race was the transformation of rocket science from a cool but fairly arcane and quiet field of science into some sort of overhyped modern day mythic single combat, with astronauts painted as knights in white armor championing and defending their tribes, doing some sort of weird imaginary battle in the skies. It wasted a lot of tax money that could have been better spent on American schools and hospitals and Russian food and clothing, and did pretty much nothing towards overthrowing the tyranny of Stalin, who killed many more of his own citizens than Hitler, or making the governments of the US and USSR understand that the other side were in fact humans and not demons or animals.

    It did get a whole hell of a lot of astronauts laid like you wouldn't believe, though. I strongly recommend reading Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff," even if you have forgotten how to read an entire book, because it's an easy read and very well worth it. I especially love the section where he describes how Chuck Yeager pretty much ascended bodily to Pilot Heaven when he became the first person to break the sound barrier during level flight on October 14, 1947, years before the space race was even so much as a bad dream.

    Finally, the USSR had the early lead in unmanned flight but the US eventually won in manned flight, so you could say that in Soviet Russia, people launched rockets to the moon, but in the United States, rockets launched YOU!
    • "The world" (Score:3, Informative)

      by Per Abrahamsen (1397)
      > First, "the world" did not "gaze at the heavens in awe and apprehension" as Sputnik
      > orbited. America gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, but as Americans often
      > need reminding, America is not the entire world.

      My parents have told me they "gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension", and they are not Americans.
    • Look, when USSR did their first nuke, it was regarded throughout the world that they were behind America. So ppl were wanting to work with America. When the world saw USSR launch sputnik, it showed to many countries that USSR was a worthy advisory of America. So many of their leaders started courting USSR's help. All in all, this was a HUGE deal for USSR. So Yes, the World REALLY DID look up. In fact, more importantly, they listened up.

      BTW, America putting Man on the moon helped America in the same way.

      A
    • by GreggBz (777373) on Monday October 01, 2007 @12:02PM (#20811167) Homepage
      You know what always gets me is the money better spent argument.

      Subtract Sputnik
      Subtract Yuri G
      Subtract a Man on the Moon
      Subtract Hubble
      Subtract the Voyager Probes
      Subtract the Mir and the ISS
      Subtract the Mars Rovers

      First, you would have tiny science section at Barns&Noble, no neat documentaries on television and little or no satellite communications networks. You would have reduced meteorological warnings, reduced understanding of agriculture, global warming and the ozone layer, a reduced understanding of the Universe, it's meaning and what makes things work, reduced understanding of fission, fusion and the Sun, and no beautiful awe-inspiring photographs to look at on the Internet. In fact, the Internet might not work as well even, because of those satellite things above. And maybe the Vatican and Catholics still think we are the center of the Universe.

      And secondly, we'd be stuck on this rock, with no hope of escaping. No doubt, we are all going to die here, eventually. What good will any human accomplishments ever be? If not for the above things, that would be the inevitable mindset, hopelessness. Have you ever really looked at the picture of Earth from the Moon? Have you ever read the Carl Sagan essay, Pale Blue Dot? I can think of no single picture, words and idea that brings humans together. It is everyones home, the only one we've ever had, after all.

      A fraction, FRACTION of the federal US budget is spent on NASA. I, for one, see science and space exploration as beneficial to all humans. For me, every dollar that goes into a new probe, or improved human presence in space, whatever the "motivation" for doing so, is a dollar better spent.

  • A little more background info-- our German guys at Huntsville arsenal could have launched a satellite before the Russians. But our govt decided it would not be cool for the first thing in orbit to be pushed there by a rocket designed to launch a nuclear warhead. So our satellite program was required to start from scratch, with a completely peaceful launch vehicle.
    • by AsnFkr (545033)
      A little more background info-- our German guys at Huntsville arsenal could have launched a satellite before the Russians. But our govt decided it would not be cool for the first thing in orbit to be pushed there by a rocket designed to launch a nuclear warhead. So our satellite program was required to start from scratch, with a completely peaceful launch vehicle.

      Thats correct depending on your source. The US was apprehensive about publicly breaking international no-fly zones and setting a precedent tha
  • by Shohat (959481)
    Thing is, we are living in the most peaceful era in human history.
    We are living in unexciting times, science and technology are developing slowly and in a linear manner, normal progress instead of breakthroughs. It has been so for the last 50 years. I envy the people that got to see 1880-1960 - they could wake up and see their world upside-down due to a breakthrough(or a war...). Flight, television, nuclear power, space travel, transistors, jets, relativity... They actually had hero-scientists/engineers b
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by willwarner (847805)
      "Italy for thirty years under the Borgias had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but produced Michelangelo, DaVinci, and the Renaissance. And Switzerland had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did they produce? The cuckoo clock." -Orson Welles from the 1949 picture "The Third Man"

      This is a really fantastic movie speech, and it's a damn shame that it's just a bunch of horseshit. It is true that public research funding for areas other than defense has weakened greatly, whi
      • by Shohat (959481)
        Cell phones ? Cell phones were invented in 1945. And we don't have commercial rocket flights yet, and myspace is just a young niche website I don't even see how that fits into "technology" in any way. Angelfire, Lycos, Geocities and others sold for billions also, and nobody cares what they are for nowadays . And what the hell does plastic surgery has to do with anything?
        Dotcom boom "technology" ?!?!!? Dotcom boom was not about technology, it was about doing the same business, but online. The biggest "bo
        • by Scaba (183684)

          Ah, so what you're saying is anything that causes your argument to fail doesn't count?

    • We don't have a single mainstream-known scientist or engineer nowadays. There is no Bell, Wright, Einstein, Tesla...

      Hawking, Rutan, Torvalds, Jobs.
      • by Shohat (959481)
        Job's did not invent anything of significant or of scientific value, he is the CEO(?) of a tech-toy company for rich people. Trovals didn't either, he is a gifted programmer that coordinates the effor of building a nice *nix OS, which is no way is revolutionary (And Trovalds is a relatively anonymous person). And while Rutan is a very gifted engineer, he is also far from being a household name. Hawking is a stunning man, but the fact that he is famous is attributed to his best-selling books and physical con
        • You could at least try to spell more than half of their names correctly. The icing on the cake is that you managed to get Torvalds wrong in two different ways.
    • by jcnnghm (538570)
      Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength. Soldiers when in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers wil
    • Calling bullshit on this one.

      In the 20th century, we pushed the envelope on what the science of the time would allow. I might be naive to say this, but by the 70s, modern science was rapidly approaching its limits (at least on the frontiers that were being explored at the time)

      Now that we've reached that limit, we're starting new frontiers open up, particularly in how we can engineer new products and materials out of existing technology --- this doesn't occur through breakthroughs or sudden leaps and bound
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chandon Seldon (43083)

        I might be naive to say this, but by the 70s, modern science was rapidly approaching its limits (at least on the frontiers that were being explored at the time)

        Saying that "science has reached it's limit" today is just as foolish as saying it in 1907 or 1807 would have been (and people did). It can be hard for a non-scientist to understand what current research consists of, and it can be even harder for a non-scientist to guess at what of current research will directly result in visible applications, but

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zerocool^ (112121)

      Today's amazing world of new discovery is the internet, man.

      As a child of the 80's, I couldn't imagine living in a world where I didn't have instant access to infinite information, as well as interaction with people of all classes, races, and nationality. The internet is today's final frontier, it is the great equalizer, it is the breaker of barriers and opener of doors - and eyes. This is where social progress is being made. If you want to talk scientific progress as well, the modern day Einstein, Bell,
  • by night_flyer (453866) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:08AM (#20808595) Homepage
    and no mention of Nancy Luft?

    Recall the mass media complaining about possible radioactive fallout over India, some years ago, from a Russian sputnik that was nuclear powered? Today's sputniks are far more powerful then the ones that caused that 1908 Tunguska Explosion because they are nuclear powered and the Russians are not using nuclear power to only spy, no way! Plus today's sputniks are fully computerized and do things much faster. The Special Sputnik Forces of the Russian Military tell me that they care very easily kill over 95% of all Americans, with their sputniks alone, no nukes, without any warning what so ever, in a matter of a few minutes, any time that they care to do so. But the Russians can only vaporize a limited number of cities and then they will cause a nuclear winter sort of event that will kill them, too. - And we couldn't have that now could we? Carrying a dire warning on the very first page that "USA to be annihilated!", this website, http://hometown.aol.com/nancyaluft/ [aol.com], is the home of dedicated net kook and certifiable paranoid Nancy Luft whom, with her genius level IQ (which would account for her excellent grasp of grammar and sentence construction) and her BA (whoo-hoo!) is trying desperately to warn us all of the terrible dangers of Russia's Special Sputnik Forces. Since time immemorial Russian sputniks (which, she tells us early in the piece, means "travelling companion") armed with gamma rays and ray guns have been causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, Presidential assassinations, space shuttle disasters and all sorts of plagues and pestilences. They've been at it for centuries, even before the invention of spaceflight and, heck, even before there was a Russia! The Tunguska impact in 1908 for example wasn't a meteor, it was caused by Russian sputniks! MS, cancer, heart attacks, crop circles and every air crash ever have all been carved out by an orbiting army of Russian killer satellites shooting everything that moves with an array of invisible ray beams. They were also responsible for Nostradamus making his predictions, Jesus walking on water, Edgar Cayce healing people by touch alone and Abe Lincoln winning the Civil War. Oh, and they also caused Mt St Helens to explode and shot down the space shuttle Challenger, which she tried to tell people about but they wouldn't listen. And how does Nancy know these things? The Russians are transmitting their thoughts to her by microwave. She's tried writing to various Presidents about all this but, strangely, they just don't take any notice.
  • Korolyov's legacy. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MrKaos (858439) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:24AM (#20808695) Journal
    Makes you wonder what the face of space exploration would look like today if Korolyov had survived long enough to complete the N-series launchers and actually got them to the moon.
  • It amazes me that 50 years after Sputnik's launch Americans are still trying to explain why they weren't first in space. If you have any idea of what is involved in designing, building and launching space vehicles, you already know that in this business nothing happens by accident. Not even accidents. So the elderly Russian space pioneers are being modest. It doesn't mean we have to be naive. Of course Sputnik launch was successful on the first try not because the Russians got lucky, but because they knew w
  • by Blahbooboo3 (874492) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:44AM (#20808843)
    "sends in an AP article featuring interviews with the [b]old men [/b]who launched the first satellite 50 year ago." Real impolite summary. How about just men? People? Brilliant men who accomplished an amazing feat 50 years ago? Calling them "old" is insulting and unnecessary.
  • I really enjoy reading all the comments from US /.ers immediately recalling their moon program. Come on! As much as you would like to think that USA was and remains a superior country, you have to admit, that your precious country wasn't the first one to explore space.

    That always reminds me of NASA referring to Yuri Gagarin as to "The first European in space". Even 50 years later the US-American ego is badly hurt by Soviet supremacy in space.

    Nevertheless, it is one of the greatest achievements of mank
  • Michener's Take (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BrianRagle (1016523)
    The timing of this article is interesting to me as I am embroiled in the James Michener novel "Space" while traveling through Canada. Michener was known for his expansive historical sagas and attention to historical detail. In this case, his telling of the flurry of activity within American government and the embryonic space program is quite fascinating, especially now that we know from TFA that the Soviets were just trying something out. Whether the Soviets were trying to show the strength of Communism
  • I remember my whole family being excited, but my mom was the one who was intrigued by science.

    At the time my folks perceived it as a triumph for humankind.

    My mom's take on it was that it meant all the pictures of those wheel-shaped space stations... Arthur C. Clarke... Werner von Braun on the Disneyland "Tomorrowland" segments... Willy Ley... the Chesley Bonestell murals in the Hayden Planetarium... the George Pal "Conquest of Space" movie (ugh)... (that one might have been after Sputnik)... ...it was all r
  • by John Jorsett (171560) on Monday October 01, 2007 @10:53AM (#20810297)
    I remember Sputnik, and I remember that everybody in the US went apeshit when it was launched. Our technological superiority was suddenly in question and there was a big push to start cranking out more engineers and scientists. My own career choice was partially influenced by those events.
  • So Sputnik was just another Soviet fraud. Something created for getting there first, rather than actually accomplishing something useful. Exploited for political propaganda purposes more than anything else. And then they credit their accomplishment to someone else with better Party connections. Why am I not surprised?
  • Not Sputnik at all, as it turns out, but just the second stage of its booster rocket

    That's hardly a revelation. My father took me out in the front yard and showed me the blinking light. He told me you couldn't see the actual satellite and that this was the booster rocket. And he was a bartender. It was common knowledge at the time.

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce

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