Oh, America’s 50 Years in Space… um, yeah, missed it

Photograph of satellite Explorer 1

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.

Spaceport America, designed by Foster+Partners

Artists impression of Spaceport America

Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial spaceport, is being built in New Mexico for Virgin Galactic. Who else would you choose to design it other than Foster+Partners — follow the link for more piccies. Thanks to Wired for the pointer.

Given all the announcements of a spaceport in Australia, a shame it’s not somewhere like Cairns. Or Uluru. 😉

Bonus space link: Arthur C Clarke on the 50th anniversary of Sputnik.

The Space Age is Dead

Photograph of Sputnik 1What has happened to our sense of adventure? 50 years ago today that Russian metal thing (left) went “Beep, beep, beep” and we were thrust into the Space Age. But now the Space Age is dead.

On 4 October 1957, it was a beach ball with a beeper inside. A month later, 3 November, it was a differently-shaped Russian metal thing with a dog inside.

“Jay-zus,” thought America, collectively. “Those goddam Commies have gotten into space! And they’ve got The Bomb.” They called it “the Sputnik Crisis” and the US created ARPA (which eventually developed the Internet) and New Math (which created a huge market in hula hoops for primary schools).

The first human in space was in 1961. And only eight years later people were walking on the moon.

But now, in 2007, it’s been 35 years since anyone’s been to the moon. Indeed, it’s been 35 years since anyone’s been more than 480km from Earth.

Continue reading “The Space Age is Dead”