This news seems to be all over the place today (http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=&q=sputnik&btnG=Search+News) and it is something to really think about. 50 years ago this week Russia launched their “October Surprise” as Sputnik was launched into orbit and “beep, beep, beep”ed its way into everyone’s mind. Both fear and hope were generated by this event and it lead to the “space race” that continued for a long time (and is perhaps heating up again now). I just noticed that Google changed their logo today on the main search page – cool.
What struck me most about this is that 50 years is both a long time (10+ years before I was born) and a really short time (many people are alive today who remember this day in history – and remember a time when there was nothing in space (nothing) that man had put there). Now it seems almost routine to watch digital TV, radio, call overseas, use a GPS, and more. Space shuttle launches aren’t “front page news” anymore and people are even planning for “entertainment” trips into space. A lot has changed.
One thing I learned more about in reading these articles this morning was about Sputnik 2 – the one that would launch a month later on November 3, 1957. This one carried a dog named Laika who was sent up with food and air and became the first living creature to reach orbit. It is thought that she survived for 3-4 orbits (five to seven hours) though rumors at the time had her living for much longer. Sputnik 2 itself lasted in orbit for 163 days during which it traveled about 100 million kilometers.
In the 50 years since Sputnik it seems like the most progress was in the first 10 years, though I know this is deceiving. We got people to the moon on July 20, 1969, right before I turned 1 year old. I wonder what will happen in the next 50 years. Will we get back to the moon? maybe China or Europe will? Will we get to Mars? Will the next “new Marriott” be in orbit?