50 Years Ago – Man’s First Step Into The Final Frontier

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite launched into orbit. Pavel Chekov would certainly point out that this was a Russian achievement, but it was a milestone for all mankind boldly going into space. And according to Star Trek lore, there were Vulcans present at the launch.(more at Space.com)

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vulcans schmulcans…. i bet it was Rom and Quark that sold the commies the space flight tech.

Maybe now it can be said it was a milestone for all of mankind boldly going into space. Back then it was probably more like, “oh, crap, the Soviets got there first.” I say, “probably” because I don’t have any primary sources within reach.

But it’s different now because we all know the cold war is over. There are no soviets anymore. Just a lot of journalists who end up dying in mysterious ways when the criticize a former KGB man, whom I will not name because…well, I’m not one to criticize.

Oh, I need a hug.

I think Chekov would have also pointed out that while the the United States space program poured millions of $ into developing a pen that worked in 0-G. The Russians just used a pencil!

#3 – Yeah… not so much

NASA and the Soviet Space Agency both used pencils originally, but of course the problems with pencils is that the tips break and end up floating around and can get into stuff and create short circuits. Plus the wood could burn easily in the pure oxygen of the cabin.

So Fisher, on their own initiative and at their own expense, developed a pressurized space pen, it cost about $1.5m to develop. 400 of these pens were sold to NASA at for a whopping $2.95 each. They were used by NASA for all flights after 1965 and by the Soviets for all flights after 1968.

This is an old story which was popularized after it was mentioned in an episode of the West Wing, which had a history of taking this sort of ‘tall tale’ and making them fact.

#4: “This is an old story which was popularized after it was mentioned in an episode of the West Wing, which had a history of taking this sort of ‘tall tale’ and making them fact.”

I never watched “The West Wing,” but somehow that doesn’t surprise me! Anyway, well done Matt-net.

Another subtlety lost when the story grew into a “tall tale” is the realization that the $1.5 million investment probably didn’t produce “just” a pen. The knowledge gained during the R&D process likely also added to our understanding of the mechanics of zero-g, and may have led to technological innovation in other areas (hydrodynamics, for example).

# 3 & # 4 : I guess I strand corrected!!! Thanx for the rest of the story…. :)

5. Ron…

Yeah, “West Wing” vectored the “NASA paid millions for a pen…” myth. But the show redeamed itself with a wonderful episode called “Galileo” which was a retelling of the Mars Polar Lander fiasco.

Ultimately, Sputnik lit a fire under our Amerikanski butts. For that, we should be grateful.

(Thanks for the pen correction. I had bought into that one. Lord, if you can’t trust the far right OR the far left, I guess you’re stuck with the far middle.)

This story is a good example of what can happen when one rushes in without proper preparation just for the priveledge of proclaiming “first”.

Namely, “where are they now?”.

I read the “NASA spent millions of dollars to develop the zero-gee pen” legend many times in many books and articles over many years before “The West Wing” repeated that falsehood. (“The West Wing” is one of my favorite shows, BTW.)

In many ways, we have the shock of Sputnik to thank for the initial impetus that led to Star Trek.

#7: “Galileo” was one of the best episodes of “The West Wing.” I wish we had a president with that kind of vision and passion for exploring the unknown.

I actually preached a sermon on Sputnik and St. Francis of Assisi today… well, sorta…

Here is a somewhat condensed version that I posted on my blog…

Fifty years after a beach-ball sized hunk of metal ‘beep-beep’ed its way around the globe, instilling fear and terror in some, and wondrous hope in others, what is the legacy of Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik?

As a man of faith, I have often been asked what God thinks of spaceflight, and it is my belief that God has given us a magnificent sense of wonder and inquisitiveness. We must use it to the fullest advantage that we can, and that extends to exploring space.

Spaceflight today is entering its painful adolescent state. Still in some ways childish (spy satellites, anti-satellite weapons, etc…), while at the same time trying to be mature (observation telescopes, geological study satellites, missions to the planets and beyond). We are still growing into our identy as a spacefaring people.

People of faith must be involved in this great endeavor, however. To go to the stars without acknowledging God’s creative hand and his awesome granduer in the fabric of space does only a disservice to people of faith who might seek to foreswear spaceflight as some evil, demonic attempt to build a modern Tower of Babel.

Space is the future of humanity (at least until the Lord returns), and we need to -as people of faith- be ready to move into the future with the rest of our species.

At the same time, the deep call of both God and space should renew our goals to set aside our petty, pathetic differences here on earth. The killing needs to stop, borders need to be torn down, warfare needs to cease, and the poor, orphaned, downtrodden of our civilization need -desperately!- to be cared for. Some say that the money for space should be spent on the poor. I agree, to an extent… but I’d prefer to see the money we use to build guns and bombs to kill (largely) the poor turned to helping them stand and exist in a modern world where everyone has an acceptable standard of living.

In a way, I think Saint Francis would be proud to share his feast day on the western calendar with the launch of Sputnik… for as Sputnik causes us to think of that newly-expanding frontier of Space, a part of the creation that Francis loved so much, so it forces us to think about the rest of his message – one where we live in harmony with nature and with our fellows.

Just some thoughts on this day, October 4th… the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘beep’ that changed the world.

10 – Yeah I’m a huge West Wing fan too and I wasn’t trying to criticize it. It just tended to bring urban myths to the publics attention – including the space pen, the 27,000 word governmental cabbage memo, the Eagle changing direction on the Presidential seal during war, The Origin of Red Tape – to name a few I can remember.

7 – I agree, a superb epsiode

Is the Cold War truly over?

If you have to ask, Harry, I’ll assume Jolene Blalock didn’t reply to your request for an autographed spicy photo.

Heh, I was just reading something today where they said the famous light in the sky everybody watched back then wasn’t actually from Sputnik (which was way too tiny for anyone to see) but from part of the rocket booster.

I just thought that was funny for some reason– all the people back then who were scared and in awe… while watching space debris fly overhead.

The rocket booster was designed to carry nukes. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

In the 1950s there were no internet threads for people to race to post “First!” on….

So entire countries poured millions into competing to be first to write it in moondust!

Re 12
Some pretty cool thoughts there Rob.

50 years of space flight… unfortunately we haven’t made the progress people were expecting back then.

not topic, but breaking news:

“On Tuesday, November 13, the two-part Star Trek Remastered version of “The Menagerie” will beam onto the big screen in a special engagement with selected theatres!
The screening — a first for Star Trek — will be seen in nearly 300 theatres across the U.S. and Canada. A one-night only event, the screening will also feature a special introduction by Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, plus a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Remastered series. “The Menagerie” screening is in part to promote the HD-DVD/DVD release the following week (Nov. 20) by CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Entertainment.”

source: email from startrek.com

The father of all bombs? Weren’t Russian bombers near the the U.S. , from Russia? A groups of people who criticized the former KGB man in charge?

The Air Force News says: ” ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Russian warplane exercises around Alaska have become routine in the past few months, U.S. military officials said Monday, as the former Cold War superpower steps up flights from its Arctic bases.

Over the summer, Russian bombers have staged at least seven exercises in a buffer zone outside U.S. air space, each time alerting the U.S. through reports by Russian news agencies, said Maj. Allen Herritage, a spokesman for the Alaska region of the North American Aerospace Defense Command.”

Cold War truly over?”

Dude, you’re safe. The Air Force says so. So, don’t worry. Read the article from the air force times:

They’re not worried. So, why should anyone else be?

The above was a response to
14. Harry Ballz – October 4, 2007
“Is the Cold War truly over?”

And to assure…my response is d’uh yes. Because the Air Force says it is. And when has the government lied about anything?

Oh, and by the way, I should point out that I am not a conspiracy buff. I believe that Oswald acted alone…it has been proven that he could and he was employed in Dallas long before JFK knew he was going there. And I believe that man walked on the moon. Also, I do not agree with Rosie O’Donell or Charlie Sheen. We did NOT ATTACK ourselves!