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Today the US Celebrates 50 Years of Space Exploration

01/31/2008 05:07AM

Today the US Celebrates 50 Years of Space Exploration

With a brilliant flash and billowing smoke on the night of January 31, 1958, America's aspirations in space were dramatically unleashed in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The country had recently been humiliated when the Soviet Union put two Sputnik satellites in orbit in the fall of 1957. The wound deepened when a Navy-funded rocket called Vanguard exploded on the launch pad a few weeks later. The nation was ecstatic when the US successfully launch a Jupiter-C rocket carrying Explorer 1 -- the first United States satellite. The satellite not only salvaged national honor, but also yielded the first major scientific discovery of the space age: discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt surrounding the Earth.


  • vbrad [victor bradford]
  • 02/01/2008 03:49PM
--Thanks for remembering the day and thanks for the article. I was in elementary school then and my friends and I suspected this was a major change. After Sputnik, our class knew we needed to learn much more about science, and were excited about the prospect, since most of us had an interest (especially during the early days of satellite exploration). Explorer amazed us with the wealth of data it returned, considering how small it was, and gave us confidence in the capabilities of science. It's hard to believe how much this tiny satellite meant, not only for science, but also for democracy and our entire way of life. We were the first generation to grow up both under the shadow of nuclear war, and competition with a Communist nation as a superpower, and Explorer gave us some hope that things may turn out well after all. I'm glad we made it through that difficult period even though we still face the same situation today. Your article was informative and like so many of the Astromart articles, informed us about the wonderful human endeavor of understanding and scientific progress. Thanks again.