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50 Years Ago, Sputnik Was an Improvised Triumph

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the gum-and-baling-wire dept.

Space 252

caffiend666 sends in an AP article featuring interviews with the old men who launched the first satellite 50 year ago. The story they tell hinges on luck and the drive of one man, Sergei Korolyov, who died in 1966, unheralded in his lifetime. "When Sputnik took off 50 years ago, the world gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, watching what seemed like the unveiling of a sustained Soviet effort to conquer space and score a stunning Cold War triumph. But 50 years later, it emerges that the momentous launch was far from being part of a well-planned strategy to demonstrate communist superiority over the West... 'At that moment we couldn't fully understand what we had done,' Chertok recalled. 'We felt ecstatic about it only later, when the entire world ran amok'... And that winking light that crowds around the globe gathered to watch in the night sky? Not Sputnik at all, as it turns out, but just the second stage of its booster rocket."

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I raise my glass to the Russians... (4, Interesting)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 6 years ago | (#20807993)

Who were, and remain, worthy competitors and partners as we reach to the stars.

Congratulations are due on the anniversary of this achievement and to their many achievements since. May they have many more, and may they help elevate this world and all that are in it.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (4, Funny)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808011)

Communist!

Ha! (5, Insightful)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808037)

Yes, yes, I know!

I'm actually quite capitalistic, but one must give credit where credit is due. The Russians did a great deal to bring us to where we are today in terms of space exploration. One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind, not just the accomplishment of one tribe trying to best another. The likelihood of this occurring is, of course, quite small, but one can dream.

I mean, just think about it - these guys put an object in orbit. It's common place today, I know, but to think that they were able to get it to work the first time still amazes me.

Excellent work, comrades. Excellent work!

Re:Ha! (1, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808139)

One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind, not just the accomplishment of one tribe trying to best another.


"I am intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter."

(This comment is intended to substitute for a +1 Insightful.)

in the year 4949 .. (-1, Flamebait)

rs232 (849320) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808257)

"One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind"

Actually, we won't have and descendants as in the reign of DubYA a system of orbiting laser platforms was constructed, which later on fried the whole planet due to the year 5000 software bug in MICROS~1.DOT.PerPETuity ..

Re:Ha!

Re:Ha! (2, Insightful)

bentcd (690786) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808367)

One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind, not just the accomplishment of one tribe trying to best another. The likelihood of this occurring is, of course, quite small, but one can dream.
Events like this tend to be glorified over time. The good parts get remembered and the bad parts get forgotten or dismissed as "the spirit of the times" or "we shouldn't judge their actions by modern standards" etc. So long as communism remains a non-threat (and thus there is no political necessity to vilify it) I think any bribes will be soundly forgotten 2,000 years from now :-)

Re:Ha! (4, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808471)

I'm actually quite capitalistic, but one must give credit where credit is due.


You mean, to the government? After all it was one state sponsored program against another. The US program had the advantage of the wealth generated by an efficient economy though.

Re:Ha! (1)

cbraescu1 (180267) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808555)

One would hope that, 2,000 years from now, our descendants will all look back at Sputnik and see it as a great triumph of all mankind, not just the accomplishment of one tribe trying to best another.
I, for one, hope that 2,000 years from now there will be any tribes at all living on Earth.

Re:Ha! (0, Troll)

MarsDefenseMinister (738128) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809023)

Nope, the credit actually goes to the USA, again. The Russians succeeded because they had bigger rockets, which could heave their larger nuclear weapons. The USA had smaller rockets because our nuclear weapons were more refined, and therefore physically smaller.

But why did the USSR need the rockets and the nukes in the first place. That's right, because of the USA, and that's why we deserve all the credit for Sputnik.

Re:Ha! (1)

hachiman (68983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809317)

Wars (or even conflicts) have always produced the greatest advances in technology. It is only natural that a race to be the first to conquer something be productive to both sides doing the racing. Both sodes advanced in leaps and bounds because of the space race and the accompanying cold war, but both sides paid a huge price for the one-up-manship.

The Russians one this battle, but ultimately lost the war thanks to the deeper pockets of the Americans. One could wonder what might have happened if the outcome had been reversed....

Pleaseanty thoughts?

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (2, Funny)

upside (574799) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808091)

Hey, it's the ghost of Truman coming back from the 50s.

*prepares Dispell Ghost of Truman spell*

Begone! The Cold War is over! Your rhetoric rings hollow with no potency or power to incite passion. Begone and take your empty words with you!

Dude, you must invoke the Words of Might "Terrorist", "Microsoft", "patents" or maybe "emacs" to get a reaction here.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (2, Funny)

rvw (755107) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808111)

Dude, you must invoke the Words of Might "Terrorist", "Microsoft", "patents" or maybe "emacs" to get a reaction here.
That's all negative. Here are some positive "Words of Might": Open source, Apple, Vim, Linux and let's not forget: boobs!

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (4, Funny)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808149)

Linux and let's not forget: boobs!

Congratulations for getting 'linux' and 'boobs' into the same sentence. I don't think that's ever been achieved before.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (1, Funny)

sqldr (838964) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808363)

Congratulations for getting 'linux' and 'boobs' into the same sentence. I don't think that's ever been achieved before.

Whereas 'congratulations' and 'boobs' in the same sentence is something that Pamela Anderson is becoming increasingly tired of.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (2, Funny)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809027)

Whereas 'congratulations' and 'boobs' in the same sentence is something that Pamela Anderson is becoming increasingly tired of.

And congratulations to you too for getting from Linux to Pamela Anderson. Albeit via the unusual route of 'boobs'.

And to you... (1)

Jon.Laslow (809215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809091)

...for getting 'unusual' and 'Pamela Anderson' in the same sentence using 'boobs', three words which normally only go together with the word 'large' added.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808203)

Linux comes from a country that formerly belonged to Russia, namely Finland. We celebrate our 90th independence day.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (0, Offtopic)

master5o1 (1068594) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808281)

Apple is negative. With all their iPhone and software lock ups.

They're pretty much as evil as Microsoft.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (0, Offtopic)

Serengeti (48438) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809001)

Be fair. Microsoft doesn't have AT&T and various record labels breathing down their neck to make sure a slice of the iPhone pie goes to them to deal with.

Usually, I'd go and blame the share holders, or at least the stock market system for encouraging participants to overlook moral issues in favour of profit, and really I guess I could blame AT&T's, and the record labels owners/shareholders, but I can't really see how Apple (or its owners/shareholders) are to blame for this. Maybe they could have stood up to AT&T? I guess they could have.

Of course, my perception of the world might be vastly skewed.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (0, Redundant)

minginqunt (225413) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808311)

I'm fairly certain that in Soviet Russia, triumphs improvise you.

I read it in a book about Commies, so I did.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808585)

Silence! They were right to not give any commendation to the men responsible for Sputnik; all men are equal after all! The guys who designed the first satellite probably just.. controlled the means of production, or something..

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808119)

I agree! Great work!

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (4, Informative)

OriginalArlen (726444) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808265)

Here's an excellent book on the Soviet space program [amazon.com] , written waay back in 1981; I picked it up in a second hand shop a few years later and was completely engrossed. Oberg's ability to stitch together a fairly comprehensive history of the then still highly secretive Soviet spac program from public open source material is excellent, and the revelations about the early catastrophes (like the launch pad explosion that wiped out 200 of the best launch technicians and engineers they had, plus the head of the entire ICBM program, and the tragic deaths of various cosmonauts) were amazing to me, 20 years ago anyway.

Re:I raise my glass to the Russians... (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809219)

I second you on that. I read that book when I was in the six grade(my dad owned it... he is a space nut). Even for someone not interested in space or technology should find that a fascinating read for the stories of how the communists actually ran things. Some things were pretty insane. And you get the find out why Khrushchev was really banging his shoe on that table :)

A lot of the Russian program was improvised (3, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808009)

When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor.

It's kinda easier if you only have to announce launches AFTER they were successful. If it ain't, it's a test launch. Just like a lot of people play Minigolf.

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (2, Insightful)

mahmud (254877) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808033)

When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor.
Isn't this one of the main tenets of Hacker Philosophy - to play around with technology and see where that gets you?

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (1)

mlush (620447) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808061)

When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor.
Isn't this one of the main tenets of Hacker Philosophy - to play around with technology and see where that gets you?
Hmm it seems more like a Management anti-pattern, throw lots of money at the problem and hope some sticks... and if it does not stick, execute the project leader and most of the middle management.

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (4, Informative)

mahmud (254877) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808151)

[...] throw lots of money at the problem and hope some sticks...
What money? Read the RTFA! It was an impromptu project by one man and his team of scientists, a creative effort to push the existing tech and skills to their limits, not a government project with slipping deadlines and inflated funding. And anyway, Russian space program was funded sparingly for most of its history, when compared to NASA.

My point expressed in GP still holds.

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (2, Funny)

mahmud (254877) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808163)

s/RTFA/TFA/

(slaps himself)

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (2, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808357)

Read the RTFA!
s/RTFA/TFA/

You're doing great! Just one more to make it right:

s/TFA/FA/

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (2)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808241)

And anyway, Russian space program was funded sparingly for most of its history, when compared to NASA.

You said a mouthful there.

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (1)

mahmud (254877) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808251)

You said a mouthful there.
Alright, alright, let me rephrase:

especially when compared to NASA

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808513)

All fine, but I don't put a human being on top of my code. If I did, I would probably not just "give it a shot" when it's kinda-sorta complete.

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (5, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808049)

Actually, a lot of Russian space technology was built on old technologies and as a result was quite reliable. For example, the R-7 rocket used to launch Sputnik used technologies from 20-s and there's a story that burning logs were used to ignite the first stage engines. But at the same time computer modeling (yes, even at that time!) was used to compute boosters parameters.

BTW, R-7 and its successors have become the most successful launch systems so far.

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (5, Interesting)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808365)

Just ask NASA who could rescue a shuttle stuck in orbit before they ran out of air/water/food, not NASA they couldn't get their "reusable" shuttle in orbit in less than 56 days, whereas the Russians sensibly had a Soyuz or Progress craft on standby at all times to mount a rescue of their Cosmonauts?

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (2, Informative)

BuR4N (512430) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808073)

"When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor"

Please look again:
http://www.amazon.com/Soviet-Space-Race-Apollo/dp/0813026288 [amazon.com]

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808177)

The book accompanies the BBC mini-series [amazon.co.uk] , which is highly recommended.

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808077)

Are you trying to tell me that the innovative new business model of "if it builds and fits together, launch it" was not invented by microsoft after all?

Re:A lot of the Russian program was improvised (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809157)

No, they invented how you can get away with omitting the "fits together" part.

Hey, that's my strategy too! (1)

sheldon (2322) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809273)

When you look at the history of Soviet space exploration, you often get the impression that "it builds and fits together, launch it" was more often than not the deciding factor.


When developing software, saying "It builds without errors" means the product is ready for Production!

Sounds of Sputnik (5, Informative)

gbobeck (926553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808013)

Amsat.org has a page which features a little blurb as well as sounds from the first satellites. For Sputnik, there are two signal recordings.

See http://www.amsat.org/amsat/features/sounds/firstsat.html [amsat.org]
This page has the two recordings both in .wav and .ra formats.

Re:Sounds of Sputnik (2, Funny)

OneoFamillion (968420) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808263)

Ah yes, RealAudio - a peak of Western audio technology in the times of the Sputnik launch ;-)

In Soviet Russia ... (2, Funny)

MPAB (1074440) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808015)

uhm ... wait ... (annoyed grunt)

Re:In Soviet Russia ... (-1, Redundant)

eniac42 (1144799) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808029)

..missile launches YOU!

(This joke is scheduled to make its proper appearance on 12 April 2011..)

Re:In Soviet Russia ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20809325)

...You are the satellite. Ask any of the republics who were incorporated against their free will.

Red Moon Rising - BBC Radio4 (5, Informative)

NoNeeeed (157503) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808027)

This week's book of the week on Radio 4 is "Red Moon Rising", which is all about the building of Sputnik.

Available on Listen Again each day: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/arts/book_week.shtml [bbc.co.uk]

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808053)

Rockets launch you!

Oh wait..

Re:In Soviet Russia... (1)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808201)

Especially as Laika was temporary project manager at the time.

One of the best recountings of the story and times (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808059)

of Sputnik
http://www.prometheus-music.com/audio/surprise.mp3 [prometheus-music.com]
written by Leslie Fish
Performed by Gunnar Madsen
published by Prometheus Music http://www.prometheus-music.com/ [prometheus-music.com]

While the Apollo program was a deliberate success? (-1, Troll)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808063)

"50 Years Ago, Sputnik Was an Improvised Triumph"

You mean as opposed to the Apollo program which was a well thought out deliberate success?

Ha-ha-ha!

Re:While the Apollo program was a deliberate succe (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808381)

Well, I don't know about you but I wouldn't call the Apollo program an ICBM that was last-minute sidetracked to launch a satellite, I'm fairly sure it was deliberately made to land on the moon. While you can certainly question what JFK was smoking when he announced it, it seems to me the execution was rather well thought out. When did you last see a multi-billion dollar government program deliver the goods as promised and on schedule?

Re:While the Apollo program was a deliberate succe (1)

Flavio (12072) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808489)

You mean as opposed to the Apollo program which was a well thought out deliberate success?

YES. And who modded you up?

Russian logic? (2, Funny)

E++99 (880734) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808085)

"The Earth is a sphere, and its first satellite also must have a spherical shape"

Ooookay.

Re:Russian logic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808101)

what were the pointy bits for then?
Symbolic of a planned space elevator system perhaps?

Re:Russian logic? (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808117)

My guess is there was a Japanese in the team...

Re:Russian logic? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809195)

Most certainly not. You remember how bulky it all was? Japanese technology is tiny, after all you have to fit it into your home somehow.

So, any stereotypes missing?

Obvious! (1)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808507)

Both Earth and its first satellite were known to be spheres long before these guys ever made this declaration!

might've at least reworded the article title (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808109)

As Yahoo is my homepage, it is weird to see a yahoo story, then check Slashdot, and bingo... same headline, same story. I guess I shouldn't complain, though; it was a milestone (I was nine years old) and prompted a big push for science (International Geophysical Year). However, it was seen as a threat, since it was known that the USSR had hydrogen (fusion) bombs and none of us expected to ever grow to adulthood, with all the civil defense movies that warned us about the flash that was "ten times brighter than the day". (tip-of-the-hat to Quicksilver Messenger Service)
To celebrate the event now takes some rewiring internally.

Re:might've at least reworded the article title (2)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808655)

Absolutely. The little beeping ball that ramped up both the space race and the cold war.

Six in my case but I still remember the adults pondering the implications of this Russian "thing" right over their very own heads.

The effects.... (5, Interesting)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808115)

"We didn't believe that you would outpace the Americans with your satellite, but you did it. Now you should launch something new by Nov. 7," Korolyov quoted Khrushchev telling him, according to Grechko.

And then America got their ass in gear and realized that science is important and started a program that vastly improved science education and learning science became the "cool" thing to do.

There were some benefits in the existence of the Soviet Union.

Re:The effects.... (2, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808297)

And then America got their ass in gear and realized that science is important and started a program that vastly improved science education and learning science became the "cool" thing to do.
It wasn't about cool, it was about patriotism and fear. If communism was "superior" then other countries might adopt it; not to mention the strategic benefits of putting stuff in space like cameras, nuclear weapons, etc.

Re:The effects.... (1)

hjrnunes (1135957) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808433)

and learning science became the "cool" thing to do.
Yep. And also teaching... Sagan, Penrose, Jastrow, Hawking... It spawned a golden age for popular science! Unfortunately, I believe we're going down medieval on science now... Poor Carl would be disappointed.

first mutt in space .. (-1, Flamebait)

rs232 (849320) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808221)

"On Nov. 3, they launched Sputnik 2, which weighed 1,118 pounds. It carried the world's first living payload, a mongrel dog named Laika, in its tiny pressurized cabin .. The dog died of the heat [yahoo.com] after a week, drawing protests from animal-lovers"

I recall reading somewhere that they fitted the dog with a cap containing electrodes and electrocuted it before reentry.

Re:first mutt in space .. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808315)

I recall reading somewhere that the Earth is flat, but I don't think that's true. Laika died of a heart attack early in the mission (not too surprising!). The Soviets kept that bit quiet, to make the mission look more successful.

Re:first mutt in space .. (2, Informative)

rs232 (849320) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808529)

"Laika died of a heart attack early in the mission (not too surprising!)"

There was no mention at the time of Laika dying in orbit, indeed the impression given was thet he safely returned to earth. Later on they mentioned him dying during reentry or euthanized [tedstrong.com] by injection in orbit, or died of fright [dogsinthenews.com] just after take-off, later on in a book written by one of the Russians who actually worked on the project there is mention of the mutt being electrocuted.

Re:first mutt in space .. (2, Informative)

pitu (983343) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808667)

I thought that laika died in space from 'overheating", though
its temp was about 38C which was 'normal', and then they concluded they
needed not only to sustain air temp but provide a ventilator for air flow...

  something like that...

Improvised "Triumph" (3, Funny)

theonetruekeebler (60888) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808275)

I gotta quit reading motorcycle blogs just before reading Slashdot. All I could think was you had a satellite that leaked oil and every time it was in Earth's shadow the electrics would fail. I guess it really was like a 1960s Triumph -- you get it started once and take the hell off, and hope to God it stays running for the whole trip.

BBC Space Race (2, Informative)

Cee (22717) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808313)

In case you haven't seen the BBC docu-drama Space Race [wikipedia.org] , watch it.

Re:BBC Space Race (1)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808345)

I watched it. It contains A LOT of factual errors.

Better read Chertok's memoirs (http://www.astronautix.com/articles/chemoirs.htm) and his book "Rockets and people" (unfortunately, I can't find its translation in Internet, but I know it exists) if you want to know about Russian space program.

12 years, not 22 years (2, Informative)

TrueJim (107565) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808369)

"In the end, it was the Americans who won the race to the moon, nearly 22 years later."

        22 years! What?

        I guess TFA meant 12 years.

The real space junk is the myths. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808517)

First, "the world" did not "gaze at the heavens in awe and apprehension" as Sputnik orbited. America gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, but as Americans often need reminding, America is not the entire world.

Second, in the 1950s everyone was shitting themselves over the prospect of a global thermonuclear holocaust, and so the whole space race was the transformation of rocket science from a cool but fairly arcane and quiet field of science into some sort of overhyped modern day mythic single combat, with astronauts painted as knights in white armor championing and defending their tribes, doing some sort of weird imaginary battle in the skies. It wasted a lot of tax money that could have been better spent on American schools and hospitals and Russian food and clothing, and did pretty much nothing towards overthrowing the tyranny of Stalin, who killed many more of his own citizens than Hitler, or making the governments of the US and USSR understand that the other side were in fact humans and not demons or animals.

It did get a whole hell of a lot of astronauts laid like you wouldn't believe, though. I strongly recommend reading Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff," even if you have forgotten how to read an entire book, because it's an easy read and very well worth it. I especially love the section where he describes how Chuck Yeager pretty much ascended bodily to Pilot Heaven when he became the first person to break the sound barrier during level flight on October 14, 1947, years before the space race was even so much as a bad dream.

Finally, the USSR had the early lead in unmanned flight but the US eventually won in manned flight, so you could say that in Soviet Russia, people launched rockets to the moon, but in the United States, rockets launched YOU!

Re:The real space junk is the myths. (1)

Sheltem The Guardian (940038) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808747)

You're in fact a little clueless. Sputnik 1 was launched in 1957 and Stalin died in 1953.

Re:The real space junk is the myths. (1)

willwarner (847805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808781)

Whoops! You are exactly right, and I should have tarred the tyranny of Stalinism or Soviet Communism, not Stalin himself, who I'd mistakenly thought lived past Sputnik.

"The world" (2, Informative)

Per Abrahamsen (1397) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809217)

> First, "the world" did not "gaze at the heavens in awe and apprehension" as Sputnik
> orbited. America gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension, but as Americans often
> need reminding, America is not the entire world.

My parents have told me they "gazed at the heavens in awe and apprehension", and they are not Americans.

Re:"The world" (1)

willwarner (847805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809319)

Plenty of nations other than America, like Canada and Western Europe, had good reason to be apprehensive, and I imagine everyone would have felt some awe. But I doubt the Soviets or the Soviet sphere would have been apprehensive at all, and places like India and China could rest comfortably knowing they weren't in the line of fire.

Again, only a part of the story (1, Flamebait)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808549)

A little more background info-- our German guys at Huntsville arsenal could have launched a satellite before the Russians. But our govt decided it would not be cool for the first thing in orbit to be pushed there by a rocket designed to launch a nuclear warhead. So our satellite program was required to start from scratch, with a completely peaceful launch vehicle.

an extraordinary claim! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808553)

Wow, that is an extraordinary claim. You have some evidence you can show us, right?

Re:an extraordinary claim! (3, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808797)

Actually, its kind of true (but with a different spin, of course).

The fact was, that the US program deemed the nuclear missile program as too sensitive and secret to let scientist mess with it, so they were forced to do a parallel development with the vanguard program (which of course lagged behind without the military budget).

The seperation was there, but the reason wasnt one of public image, but of paranoid secrecy.

Re:an extraordinary claim! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20809019)

It's well known. Go read a little about the Vanguard program.

Re:an extraordinary claim! (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809169)

Wow, that is an extraordinary claim. You have some evidence you can show us, right?

The Jupiter C [astronautix.com] rocket was capable of orbiting a satellite prior to October, 1957:

Re-entry vehicle test booster and satellite launcher derived from Redstone missile. The Jupiter A version of the Redstone missile was modified with upper stages to test Jupiter re-entry vehicle configurations. Von Braun's team was ordered to ballast the upper stage with sand to prevent any 'inadvertent' artificial satellites from stealing thunder from the official Vanguard program. Korolev's R-7 orbited the first earth satellite instead.

Korolyov's story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808559)

Korolyov had a staggeringly hard time under Stalin. Read the Gulag section of his Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] ... in Soviet Russia ... ah forget it. Amazing he was able to work at all.

We don't have progress. (1, Interesting)

Shohat (959481) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808577)

Thing is, we are living in the most peaceful era in human history.
We are living in unexciting times, science and technology are developing slowly and in a linear manner, normal progress instead of breakthroughs. It has been so for the last 50 years. I envy the people that got to see 1880-1960 - they could wake up and see their world upside-down due to a breakthrough(or a war...). Flight, television, nuclear power, space travel, transistors, jets, relativity... They actually had hero-scientists/engineers back then. We don't have a single mainstream-known scientist or engineer nowadays. There is no Bell, Wright, Einstein, Tesla...
Just think about how long it would take to get the atom bomb (or nuclear power station) without WW2, how long it would take to get to space without the cold-war race, how long would it take before we'd have Jet engines without the need for better warplanes.
What is more annoying , is that real space exploration and colonization can only be done in a society that doesn't see money as top priority, and it is sad to see China breaking under pressure and becoming more capitalistic/democratic instead of the the world moving away from that model.
Anyway, the next 40 years will be a total waste. Corporations and not governments direct research nowadays, so don't expect significant space exploration/travel in the near future. Bleh

Re:We don't have progress. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808647)

What is more annoying , is that real space exploration and colonization can only be done in a society that doesn't see money as top priority, and it is sad to see China breaking under pressure and becoming more capitalistic/democratic instead of the the world moving away from that model. Anyway, the next 40 years will be a total waste. Corporations and not governments direct research nowadays, so don't expect significant space exploration/travel in the near future. Bleh

And yet you continue to explore new frontiers of stupidity every day.

Re:We don't have progress. (2, Insightful)

willwarner (847805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808673)

"Italy for thirty years under the Borgias had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but produced Michelangelo, DaVinci, and the Renaissance. And Switzerland had brotherly love and five hundred years of democracy and peace. And what did they produce? The cuckoo clock." -Orson Welles from the 1949 picture "The Third Man"

This is a really fantastic movie speech, and it's a damn shame that it's just a bunch of horseshit. It is true that public research funding for areas other than defense has weakened greatly, which sucks, and left corporations and hobbyists to pick up the slack, but the NSF is still doing a hell of a lot more than any public institution in Tesla's day.

As to lack of conflict breeding lack of innovation, this is precisely where you are wrong. Wars and other great pressures push inventions into the public eye-- how many people rode in an airplane before WWII compared to during?-- but inventors prefer to work when there aren't any bombs falling around them. I could belabor the point with examples, but I'm not even going to bother. Just look at anyone who's done anything at all with computers in the last half century. For starters.

Furthermore, the pace of technological progress and its impact on people's lives continues to accelerate. Plastic surgery, cell phones, commercial rocket flights, myspace. And we do have hero scientists and engineers, a trend that increased massively during the dotcom boom and never completely reversed, and was ironically led by Bill Gates, who is not a hero to most scientists and engineers, but was popularly portrayed as a hero engineer until about 1998 or so when the antitrust lawsuits really kicked in.

Finally, as to it being sad to see China becoming capitalistic, I would rather have a humane culture than an innovative one, but since America has been leading the world in both, it's a false opposition. And as to it being sad to see China becoming democratic, well, that rather remains to be seen.

Re:We don't have progress. (1)

Shohat (959481) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808969)

Cell phones ? Cell phones were invented in 1945. And we don't have commercial rocket flights yet, and myspace is just a young niche website I don't even see how that fits into "technology" in any way. Angelfire, Lycos, Geocities and others sold for billions also, and nobody cares what they are for nowadays . And what the hell does plastic surgery has to do with anything?
Dotcom boom "technology" ?!?!!? Dotcom boom was not about technology, it was about doing the same business, but online. The biggest "bombs" were e-tailers like Pets, Boo, online markets, etc... When I am talking technology, I mean real things. Like the fact that we still use the combustion engine, like the fact that we still have power lines, the fact that space exploration has gone nowhere, we don't have cloning, immortality, cure for cancer, real alternative power sources, etc... "American" technologies like Plastic surgeries and myspace and the dotcoms have nothing to do with what I am talking about.

Re:We don't have progress. (1)

willwarner (847805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809071)

We do have cloning.

Wait a minute. Am I feeding the troll?

Re:We don't have progress. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808897)

Nice to see you gloss over the very medium you're using to communicate that message.

Re:We don't have progress. (1)

Shohat (959481) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809017)

Nice to see you gloss over the very medium you're using to communicate that message
I hope you know how old the internet concept is. And the initial reason for its conception. This actually proves my point.

Here, I'll fix that for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20808581)

"an AP article featuring interviews with the men"

(Boy, the age bias is is everywhere. The captcha for this comment was "grayed".)

all this talk of sputniks... (3, Funny)

night_flyer (453866) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808595)

and no mention of Nancy Luft?

Recall the mass media complaining about possible radioactive fallout over India, some years ago, from a Russian sputnik that was nuclear powered? Today's sputniks are far more powerful then the ones that caused that 1908 Tunguska Explosion because they are nuclear powered and the Russians are not using nuclear power to only spy, no way! Plus today's sputniks are fully computerized and do things much faster. The Special Sputnik Forces of the Russian Military tell me that they care very easily kill over 95% of all Americans, with their sputniks alone, no nukes, without any warning what so ever, in a matter of a few minutes, any time that they care to do so. But the Russians can only vaporize a limited number of cities and then they will cause a nuclear winter sort of event that will kill them, too. - And we couldn't have that now could we? Carrying a dire warning on the very first page that "USA to be annihilated!", this website, http://hometown.aol.com/nancyaluft/ [aol.com] , is the home of dedicated net kook and certifiable paranoid Nancy Luft whom, with her genius level IQ (which would account for her excellent grasp of grammar and sentence construction) and her BA (whoo-hoo!) is trying desperately to warn us all of the terrible dangers of Russia's Special Sputnik Forces. Since time immemorial Russian sputniks (which, she tells us early in the piece, means "travelling companion") armed with gamma rays and ray guns have been causing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, Presidential assassinations, space shuttle disasters and all sorts of plagues and pestilences. They've been at it for centuries, even before the invention of spaceflight and, heck, even before there was a Russia! The Tunguska impact in 1908 for example wasn't a meteor, it was caused by Russian sputniks! MS, cancer, heart attacks, crop circles and every air crash ever have all been carved out by an orbiting army of Russian killer satellites shooting everything that moves with an array of invisible ray beams. They were also responsible for Nostradamus making his predictions, Jesus walking on water, Edgar Cayce healing people by touch alone and Abe Lincoln winning the Civil War. Oh, and they also caused Mt St Helens to explode and shot down the space shuttle Challenger, which she tried to tell people about but they wouldn't listen. And how does Nancy know these things? The Russians are transmitting their thoughts to her by microwave. She's tried writing to various Presidents about all this but, strangely, they just don't take any notice.

Korolyov's legacy. (2, Interesting)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808695)

Makes you wonder what the face of space exploration would look like today if Korolyov had survived long enough to complete the N-series launchers and actually got them to the moon.

50 years later still looking for an explanation... (1)

Venik (915777) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808703)

It amazes me that 50 years after Sputnik's launch Americans are still trying to explain why they weren't first in space. If you have any idea of what is involved in designing, building and launching space vehicles, you already know that in this business nothing happens by accident. Not even accidents. So the elderly Russian space pioneers are being modest. It doesn't mean we have to be naive. Of course Sputnik launch was successful on the first try not because the Russians got lucky, but because they knew what they were doing.

The say the entire Politburo wearing nothing but peacock skirts had to dance for hours around Vostok 1 to build up good juju before Gagarin's flight.

not even accidents... (1)

willwarner (847805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808751)

"If you have any idea of what is involved in designing, building and launching space vehicles, you already know that in this business nothing happens by accident. Not even accidents."

On the one hand, all things are complex and connected, and very visibly so in the field of rocket science, so perhaps you're arguing for a determinist worldview where everything all fits together in an inevitable single possible pattern, which is an unpopular idea since quantum physics, but still a defensible one if you believe in nonlocal effects or the many worlds interpretation. On the other hand, that sounds more like the kind of paranoid superstition that overtakes engineers who live in mortal terror of a mistake on the scale of the Challenger explosion.

Oh, and speaking of paranoia, bad juju, and mad science, is there some drug I can take that will erase the mental image of that Politboro dance?

Rude summary (2)

Blahbooboo3 (874492) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808843)

"sends in an AP article featuring interviews with the [b]old men [/b]who launched the first satellite 50 year ago." Real impolite summary. How about just men? People? Brilliant men who accomplished an amazing feat 50 years ago? Calling them "old" is insulting and unnecessary.

Re:Rude summary (1)

willwarner (847805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808913)

It's unnecessary and would have been better to leave out, but if they were all 18 50 years ago, they're all at least 68 today, and as relatively straightforward statements of fact go, it sure seems to have struck a nerve here at slashdot. Calling them "the men" instead of "the people" didn't really raise alarm bells, and I bet "the Russian men" wouldn't either. What are /.'s demographics, anyway?

Interesting reaction coming from the USA. (2, Interesting)

Erikderzweite (1146485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20808885)

I really enjoy reading all the comments from US /.ers immediately recalling their moon program. Come on! As much as you would like to think that USA was and remains a superior country, you have to admit, that your precious country wasn't the first one to explore space.

That always reminds me of NASA referring to Yuri Gagarin as to "The first European in space". Even 50 years later the US-American ego is badly hurt by Soviet supremacy in space.

Nevertheless, it is one of the greatest achievements of mankind.

science as prestige (1)

willwarner (847805) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809045)

The space race was so loaded with contradictions it's hard to know where to begin. There were the supposedly internationalist Communists turning into flag-waving patriots, the supposedly internationalist American scientific community quietly scooping up cash from rabid American supremacist politicians, and the whole thing was a supposedly vital struggle that looks a lot more like a symbolic one from outside the two competing countries. All in all, I bet the politicians are glad that by the February 1980 they had switched to the Olympics. They're cheaper, safer, more reliably fixed, and full of athletes who don't ask nearly as many awkward questions as scientists and engineers about whether competition for its own sake is really a good idea, whether the competing nations aren't more similar than different, how the money's flowing, whose interests are being served, whether the press is being realistic and honest, and so on. Can't wait for the Beijing Bird's Nest Stadium show in Summer 08.

Michener's Take (2, Insightful)

BrianRagle (1016523) | more than 6 years ago | (#20809279)

The timing of this article is interesting to me as I am embroiled in the James Michener novel "Space" while traveling through Canada. Michener was known for his expansive historical sagas and attention to historical detail. In this case, his telling of the flurry of activity within American government and the embryonic space program is quite fascinating, especially now that we know from TFA that the Soviets were just trying something out. Whether the Soviets were trying to show the strength of Communism or merely throwing stuff into the air and seeing if it worked or not, the fact remains they boosted the American efforts in space to the point we are now, regardless of how bogged down we have gotten with the Shuttle in the last 20 years.
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