Tuesday, September 21, 2004


I have nine days to finish an article about the Vanguard 1 satellite, labelled Kaputnik because the launch vehicle exploded on the stand in one launch attempt. It's hard not to like Vanguard 1. It was nearly the first satellite in the world, but was beaten by Sputnik 1, and it was nearly the first US satellite, but was beaten by Explorer 1 .... James Van Allen devised instrumentation for it but when he saw which way the wind was blowing he transferred his project to Explorer. (Fickle bastard). As a result Explorers I and II had the honour of discovering the Van Allen radiation belts when it should have been Vanguard. I think my Australian tendency to favour the underdog is definitely aroused by poor old Vanguard! And yet it provided the technical foundations for the contemporary US space industry, and it is still in orbit today when all those other early satellites have long since re-entered.

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