04 October 2007

The space age: 50 and counting

Whilst researching for this blog I learn a lot (and hopefully you'll learn things from the posts too). The trouble is, most of the facts will only ever been handy in pub quizzes or if I have a radical change of career path.

Today's subject was a toss up between the subject I picked and bubble wrap: which is also 50 years old today. But today's subject is based around the 50th anniversary of the Russian launch of Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite which kick started the space race and man's endeavours into space. Without it, you wouldn't be reading this now. It's stunning the advances made within the lifetime of my parents.

  • On 4 October 1957 there was one artificial satellite transmitting a radio wave beep beep, last year the USA alone put 999 objects into orbit.

  • The Russian name "Спутник" means literally "traveling companion", "co-traveler" or "satellite".

  • Sputnik I was a 58.5cm polished steel sphere weighing 83.6 kg and orbited the earth in 98 minutes. The hundreds of man made objects circling the earth now weigh in total the equivalent of nearly 600 double-decker buses.

  • On January 31, 1958 the United States successfully joined the space race with the launch of Explorer 1. The scientific equipment on board discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth.

  • The earliest known fictional depiction of a man-made orbiting satellite was in the short story The Brick Moon by Edward Everette in 1869. Jules Verne reprised the idea in The Begum's Million's (1879)

  • Arthur C. Clarke put forward the idea of using satellites for worldwide communications 12 years before Sputnik 1 was launched, in an article named Wireless World.

  • In October 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed in America after Congress passing of the "Space Act" (the National Aeronautics and Space Act) the previous July. It was a direct result of the Sputnik launch.

  • The UK didn't launch a satellite into space until 1971's Prospero X-3.

  • It was only 12 years after the launch of Sputnik I that man walked on the moon.

  • Just 1 month after Sputnik I, Sputnik II took Laika the dog, the first living thing, into space.

  • Sputnik I remained in orbit until 4 January 1958 before burning up on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Maybe I'll tackle bubble wrap at a later date.

That's a month of blogging done. I'm enjoying it and my tracker seems to suggest that people are visiting (if not commenting) so I think I'll carry on. There might be a gap though as Im on holiday next week.

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