Saturday, February 01, 2014

The first American step into the Space Age

Eighty-four days. That's all it took from the time General Bruce Medaris and Dr. Wernher von Braun got the go-ahead to launch a satellite in the wake of Sputnik 1 and the failure of our own Vanguard TV-3 to the launch of Explorer 1.  That launch took place 56 years ago yesterday.

For the insider story, read a book that, while not flawless (we tried hard for flawless, but didn't quite get there), was the first ever to trace the three-legged Vanguard-Sputnik-Explorer race - and the first to discuss the fourth competitor, NOTSNIK, aka Project Pilot.

Erika Lishock and I talked to all the leaders of the U.S. programs we could locate. Most helpful were James Van Allen, JPL head Bill Pickering, Ernst Stuhlinger of the von Braun team, and Milt Rosen, Technical Director of Project Vanguard.  (All are gone now except Rosen: I talked last week to Pete Wilhelm of the Naval Research Laboratory, who told me Milt is still alive but no longer seeing people.)

So check out The First Space Race!

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