October 05, 2007

Horse 810 - Bleeping Two-Foot Tin Ball Threatens Free World

When the Soviets launched Sputnik on Oct. 4, 1957 it sparked plenty of fear among Americans even though the Soviets said Sputnik was purely scientific. The Wall Street Journal wrote on October 5 that it was the "the loudest alarm clock since Pearl Harbor". The Sputnik crisis also led to the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA and NASA itself.

Not surprisingly, 1957 was coined the International Geophysical Year. Scientists for the next 22 days continued to point radar and telescope sets upwards to hear the continual beeping from the little traveller.

The shock of the Sputnik launch was so great throughout America that even congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce commented on the launch, referring to Sputnik's beeps as "an intercontinental outer-space raspberry to a decade of American pretensions that the American way of life was a gilt-edged guarantee of our national superiority".

It perhaps goes without saying that the Soviets beat America into putting a man into space and that just 12 years after Sputnik, the USA succeeded in putting a man on the moon. As for the fate of the little bleeping ball, it probably burnt up somewhere over Alaska. All that remains is a single firing pin from the rocket which threw it into the sky.

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