Space Age's 48th birthday

From: Dinogeorge@aol.com
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 18:28:20 EDT

  • Next message: Jos Heyman: "RE: Space Age's 48th birthday"

    Today, October 4, 2005, is the 48th anniversary  of the USSR launch of 
    Sputnik 1, the first earth satellite. I well remember the  furor the Soviets caused 
    in the USA in 1957 with their satellite, which among  other things boosted the 
    attendance at my parents' adult education Russian  language classes(!). I had 
    just started 7th grade then, at Buffalo, NY's PS #54,  and was as interested 
    as a grade-schooler could be in the world's missile and  space programs. 
    Almost a month later, on November 3, 1957, the Soviets lofted  Sputnik 2, which 
    carried a living but otherwise most unfortunate dog called  "Laika" (which, 
    besides being the name of a breed of Russian dog, also means  "barker"). America's 
    first satellite launch, of a Vanguard test satellite  (Vanguard TV3 [test 
    vehicle 3]: what were TV1 and 2, pray tell?) on December 6,  1957, ended 
    ignominiously with the explosion of the launch vehicle two seconds  after ignition. The 
    American space program seemed to be in the  basement.
    
    Right next door to PS #54 was a small convenience store called  Van Jon's. 
    Sometime in 1958 their magazine rack carried a little magazine titled  Space 
    World, which I used my allowance to buy (I think it sold for a  quarter--like Mad 
    magazine). I didn't get the first issue, but the issue I had  mentioned a 
    little table of artificial earth satellites compiled by Willy Ley  that had 
    appeared in the preceding issue. Sputnik 1 was designated 1957 alpha  (typed in 
    Greek) and Sputnik 2 was 1957 beta in the table. Those designations  were said to 
    have been devised by none other than astronomer Fred Whipple.  Individual 
    objects from each launch were given numerical subscripts: 1957 alpha  1 was the 
    Sputnik 1 rocket body (which I later learned was the entire "SL-1"  second 
    stage); 1957 alpha 2 was the actual satellite; 1957 alpha 3 was a nose  fairing 
    (and this object has never been catalogued by SpaceTrack); and 1957 beta  (with 
    no subscript) was the Sputnik 2 rocket body with payload attached, the  only 
    orbited object known from that launch. I have since learned that the  payload 
    containing the dog was supposed to separate but failed to do so, and  that this 
    caused a malfunction of the thermal control system keeping the dog  alive, 
    leading to the animal's early demise.
    
    The Whipple international  designations were used until the end of 1962, when 
    they were replaced by the  typographically more friendly numerical 
    designations still in use (e.g.,  1963-01A, later 1963-001A), wherein the Greek letters 
    were replaced by numbers  and the numerical subscripts were replaced by Roman 
    letters (excluding I and O,  which in the early digital age were easily 
    confused with digits 1 and 0,  respectively). The last Greek-designated launch was 
    1962 beta omega--three full  circuits around the 24-letter Greek alphabet. That 
    was Kosmos 12, a USSR  reconsat.
    
    I picked up one subsequent issue of Space World at Van Jon's,  after which I 
    was no longer able to find the magazine on the newsstand  (grade-schoolers are 
    of limited means for such endeavors). Later, after I  entered college, I 
    found a few current issues on sale at the newsstand at the  Harvard Square subway 
    station in Cambridge, MA. The magazine had been taken over  by the notorious 
    schlock vender Ray Palmer (e.g., Fate magazine) and was  reprinting parts of 
    the Goddard Satellite Situation Report as a service to its  readers, to keep 
    them current on satellite launches. I bought copies when I  could find them, but 
    distribution was always very spotty. Incidentally, that  same Harvard Square 
    newsstand regularly carried current issues of Flight  International, which I 
    collected for several years when I lived in  Cambridge--particularly those that 
    excerpted parts of the RAE Table of  Artificial Earth Satellites.
    
    It was those two early 1958 issues of Space  World, as well as a 1960 issue 
    of Time magazine that featured an article on the  space program, that inspired 
    me to maintain my own table of space launches and  artificial earth 
    satellites, an account of which I have already bored fellow  list members with. Does 
    anybody happen to know more details of the history of  that little magazine? Or 
    even have back issues for sale? A Google search of the  title turned up nothing 
    useful.  
    
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