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Sixty years ago today; 1/31/58

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Sixty years ago today, 1/31/58, the first US spacecraft to orbit the Earth was launched.  It was called Explorer 1.  

The US had to watch in stunned disbelief as the USSR kicked it's in space in 1957.  The first spacecraft launched, Sputnik 1, launched on October 4, 1957.  With a mass of 184 pounds, it was SIGNIFICANTLY larger than the size of the first spacecraft the US was planning to put into orbit.  The first attempted US satellite was Vanguard 1 which weighed 3.2 pounds.  For all that, unbeknownst to the US, Sputnik 1 was a crude satellite containing only a radio transmitter.  

The USSR continued to run roughshod over the US in space with the launch of Sputnik 2 on 11/3/57, technically a much more advanced satellite than Sputnik 1.  Sputnik 2 weighed about 1,100 pounds.  Sputnik 2 contained the first living organism to fly into orbit, the dog Laika. There were no plans to land her. Laika died of heatstroke after 24 - 48 hours in orbit.  

To further twist the knife in the wound, vis-a-vis pathetic rockets, the US attempted to launch it's first satellite, Vanguard 1, on 12/6/57.  The Vanguard rocket rose 4 feet and fell back to Earth where it exploded.  US newspapers named it all sorts of things including Flopnik.

Given the green light, the US Army Redstone rocket team under Werner von Braun, used a modified Redstone rocket called Juno, to launch Explorer 1 into orbit on 1/31/58.  The relief in the US of finally being able to launch a satellite into orbit was immense.  Even though Explorer 1 was small, roughly 31 pounds, it was designed with science in mind, and went on to discover the Van Allen radiation belts.  

Here is a period newsreel clip of the launch of Explorer 1.  It is just over 3 minutes long.  

Post a coin from 1958 or a space based coin/medallion in honor of Explorer 1.




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SkyMan, the fact that a rocket lifted 4 feet off the ground and then crashed back down, obliterating the launch pad, is what made the later Alan Shepard sub-orbital flight so riveting.

Would it crash down on itself?  If it did, would the escape rocket system work as hoped, and carry him away to safety just in the nick of time?

Things were so dicey back then.

But, until the Space Shuttle Challenger, the US never lost anyone on an actual flight.  There was the Apollo 1 fire, but that was not a flight.  And there were many close calls where human life could have been lost, but catastrophe was avoided.

To this day, it has only been the Challenger and Columbia crews lost in flight for the United States.  Quite an achievement considering that on each flight a million things can go wrong.

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On ‎1‎/‎31‎/‎2018 at 10:23 PM, Weidel Legacy Collection said:

Take #2.  Images don't do justice to the actual coin.


Sweet coin! '57 and '58 nickels are among the tougher heavy cameos to find in the whole series.

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