Nobody gets a place in history for coming second. In October 2007 we celebrated 50 Years of The Space Age, commemorating the launch of Sputnik 1. I wrote about it, here and for Crikey (different pieces). I masturbated.
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of America’s first successful satellite launch — and I only just realised it now.
The Bad Astronomy Blog has some of the story, and of course Wikipedia reveals all.
Apparently the US could’ve gotten something into orbit before the Commies, but they wanted to use an American rocket. The Juno 1 launch vehicle, based on German technology, was originally unsuited politically. Alas, the all-American Vanguard wasn’t up for it.