Friday, February 01, 2008

Sputnik apples

Yesterday I gave a lecture about Woomera to the University of the Third Age - a volunteer-run organisation aimed at retirees. There were quite a few people in the audience who had connections to Woomera of one kind or another. But the bit I liked most was the story of the Sputnik apples. To celebrate the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, one now-retired gentleman and his work colleagues stuck toothpicks into apples in Sputnik's antenna configuration and hung lots of them from the ceiling by string.

Bamboo skewers may have been a little more to scale but they are not such easy things to find in an office. A spray of silver paint would have been marvellous too (I'm getting ideas, you see, on the space party theme .... )

The literature, and my own discussions with people, suggest that in Australia the reaction to Sputnik 1 was very different to that in the USA. It was not perceived as a threat, it did not cause a national crisis of confidence. (Although it should be noted that not all scholars agree that that was the general reaction in the US). Instead, people found it interesting and exciting.


  1. Hmmm - what about Sputnik toffee apples? Perhaps a recipe for my space food book.

  2. Yeah, and not painted silver obviously.