Sputnik-1

0 views
Skip to first unread message

Hop David

unread,
Sep 8, 2007, 11:01:35 PM9/8/07
to
In the beginning of _October Sky_, Homer Hickam is amazed and inspired
by the sight of a point of light moving across the night sky.

James Oberg writes in the October _Astronomy_ magazine that Sputnik was
never brighter than 4th or 5th magnitude. Evidently what Homer saw was
Sputnik's massive carrier rocket.

October 4 will be the 50th Anniversary.

Hop

Joseph Nebus

unread,
Sep 9, 2007, 1:02:01 AM9/9/07
to
Hop David <ho...@cunews.info> writes:

>In the beginning of _October Sky_, Homer Hickam is amazed and inspired
>by the sight of a point of light moving across the night sky.

>James Oberg writes in the October _Astronomy_ magazine that Sputnik was
>never brighter than 4th or 5th magnitude. Evidently what Homer saw was
>Sputnik's massive carrier rocket.

I don't see why that follows. Sputnik proper was visible to
the naked eye, and while people may have confused the bright and easily
visible upper stage for the satellite, that doesn't mean this person at
this moment did.

--
Joseph Nebus
------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Fred J. McCall

unread,
Sep 9, 2007, 2:57:44 AM9/9/07
to
nebusj-@-rpi-.edu (Joseph Nebus) wrote:

:Hop David <ho...@cunews.info> writes:
:
:>In the beginning of _October Sky_, Homer Hickam is amazed and inspired
:>by the sight of a point of light moving across the night sky.
:
:>James Oberg writes in the October _Astronomy_ magazine that Sputnik was
:>never brighter than 4th or 5th magnitude. Evidently what Homer saw was
:>Sputnik's massive carrier rocket.
:
: I don't see why that follows. Sputnik proper was visible to
:the naked eye, and while people may have confused the bright and easily
:visible upper stage for the satellite, that doesn't mean this person at
:this moment did.

Why don't you ask him?

Personally, I think he knew what he was looking at.


--
"The odds get even - You blame the game.
The odds get even - The stakes are the same.
You bet your life."
-- "You Bet Your Life", Rush

Rand Simberg

unread,
Sep 9, 2007, 7:35:57 AM9/9/07
to
On Sat, 08 Sep 2007 20:01:35 -0700, in a place far, far away, Hop
David <ho...@cunews.info> made the phosphor on my monitor glow in such
a way as to indicate that:

>In the beginning of _October Sky_, Homer Hickam is amazed and inspired
>by the sight of a point of light moving across the night sky.
>
>James Oberg writes in the October _Astronomy_ magazine that Sputnik was
>never brighter than 4th or 5th magnitude. Evidently what Homer saw was
>Sputnik's massive carrier rocket.

I'm not sure that October Sky is an accurate rendition of what
actually happened (in fact, in many particulars, we know that it is
not). I haven't read the book, but "Rocket Boys" is a better source
for what Hickam actually did and saw.

hhi...@hiwaay.net

unread,
Sep 9, 2007, 10:09:46 AM9/9/07
to
On Sep 9, 6:35 am, simberg.interglo...@org.trash (Rand Simberg) wrote:
> On Sat, 08 Sep 2007 20:01:35 -0700, in a place far, far away, Hop
> David <h...@cunews.info> made the phosphor on my monitor glow in such

> a way as to indicate that:
>
> >In the beginning of _October Sky_,Homer Hickamis amazed and inspired

> >by the sight of a point of light moving across the night sky.
>
> >James Oberg writes in the October _Astronomy_ magazine that Sputnik was
> >never brighter than 4th or 5th magnitude. Evidently what Homer saw was
> >Sputnik's massive carrier rocket.
>
> I'm not sure that October Sky is an accurate rendition of what
> actually happened (in fact, in many particulars, we know that it is
> not). I haven't read the book, but "Rocket Boys" is a better source
> for what Hickam actually did and saw.


I've answered this question many times, but always glad to do it
again. Here tis:

As I wrote in the memoir, Sputnik's transit over Coalwood
was predicted in articles published in the local papers and I decided
I would stand out in my back yard and watch it. When the word got out
that Sonny (as I was known then) was going to watch Sputnik, a good
part of the town decided to help me and showed up. Sure enough, at
the appointed
time, a dazzling, unblinking star appeared.

I wrote, "Then I saw the bright
little ball, moving majestically across the narrow star field between
the ridgelines. I stared at it with no less rapt attention than if it
had been God Himself in a golden chariot riding overhead. It soared
with what seemed to me inexorable and dangerous purpose, as if there
were no power in the universe that could stop it... I felt that if I
stretched out enough, I could touch it. "Pretty thing," Mom said,
summing up the general reaction of the backyard crowd." Of course,
her enthusiasm had been somewhat dimmed after my father (Homer, Sr.)
had predicted
President Eisenhower would never allow anything Russian to fly over
Coalwood. He was not aware of it, either way, as he had gone up to
the coal mine, never looking up even once.

Was it Sputnik we saw? Or a stage of its rocket? I do not know, but
I know we saw something grand that night. One must remember that in a
place like Coalwood in 1957, there was virtually no light pollution.
Even before Sputnik, I would sometimes go outside in my back yard and
see with my naked eye more stars than I have ever seen since, with the
possible exception of deepest Montana when I go dinosaur hunting.
There was also an aching in our hearts to see that
magnificent little robotic adventurer cross in a place none of us
really believed anything would ever actually go. Space was at that
time the stuff of science fiction, not reality.

Although Sputnik was Russian, I believe that it transcends them.
I also believe that Sputnik was more of an American story
than a Russian one. A year later,in the autumn of 1958, the
United States launched her answer to Sputnik: Us, the students of
America, and we were bound for glory. As Mr. Turner, the principal of
Big Creek High School, said when addressing the student body about our
new, much more difficult curriculum, "The Russians? I pity them. If
they knew you like I know you, they'd be shaking in their boots!" Of
course, he later had more than a few qualms about the "bomb builders"
of the Big Creek Missile Agency. Thank God for Miss Riley and her
presentation to us of "Principles of Guided Missile Design," a book
that required a working knowledge of calculus and differential
equations. I was having trouble with algebra at the time. As Miss
Riley said, "All I've done is give you a book. You have to have the
courage to learn what's inside it." We did.

By the way, the annual October Sky Festival in Coalwood will be on
Oct. 6, which is not quite but nearly the 50th Anniversary of Sputnik.
Go to www.homerhickam.com and click on Rocket Boys/October Sky for
details.

Best wishes and happy reading,

Homer Hickam
www.homerhickam.com


Matt

unread,
Sep 9, 2007, 10:31:22 AM9/9/07
to
Many thanks to Rand and to Homer Hickam for coming in on this thread.
In developing our book The First Space Race: Launching the World's
First Satellites, (Texas A&M, 2004) we discussed this with a lot of
people, including Van Allen. The consensus was that Sputnik 1 itself
was never observed with the naked eye, except possibly for brief
flashes near dawn and dusk. What the newspapers and everyone else
announced about where to look for Sputnik related to the core stage of
the R-7. Even this usually appeared as a small, although sometimes
very bright, point of reflected light.
This in no way diminishes the importance or impact of the experience
people all over the world had in watching a Soviet satellite (whatever
piece of hardware it was) track across the night sky. Among other
things, it was the experience of watching with the naked eye that
inspired the physicists and engineers at China Lake to start one of
my all-time favorite programs, the audacious shoestring satellite
effort called Project Pilot or NOTSNIK.
Alas, work schedules will force us to miss the big commemorations.
I'll make it to the AAS National Conference in November, which might
be called one of the "close out" American commerative meetings, to be
on panel about what NASA's first 50 years offers in the way of
projections about the next 50.
Regards,
Matt Bille / www.mattwriter.com

Rand Simberg

unread,
Sep 9, 2007, 10:49:59 AM9/9/07
to
On Sun, 09 Sep 2007 07:31:22 -0700, in a place far, far away, Matt
<MattW...@AOL.com> made the phosphor on my monitor glow in such a

way as to indicate that:

>Alas, work schedules will force us to miss the big commemorations.


>I'll make it to the AAS National Conference in November, which might
>be called one of the "close out" American commerative meetings, to be
>on panel about what NASA's first 50 years offers in the way of
>projections about the next 50.

I think that the question of whether or not there will even be a NASA
fifty years from now is worth asking.

Greg D. Moore (Strider)

unread,
Sep 9, 2007, 10:54:39 AM9/9/07
to
"Rand Simberg" <simberg.i...@org.trash> wrote in message
news:47fe07f0....@news.giganews.com...


Oh I don't know the REA is still around in a new form.

Government agencies rarely die. You can't kill bureaucracy that easily.

--
Greg Moore
SQL Server DBA Consulting Remote and Onsite available!
Email: sql (at) greenms.com http://www.greenms.com/sqlserver.html


Eric Chomko

unread,
Sep 10, 2007, 1:43:04 PM9/10/07
to
On Sep 9, 10:49 am, simberg.interglo...@org.trash (Rand Simberg)
wrote:

> On Sun, 09 Sep 2007 07:31:22 -0700, in a place far, far away, Matt
> <MattWri...@AOL.com> made the phosphor on my monitor glow in such a

> way as to indicate that:
>
> >Alas, work schedules will force us to miss the big commemorations.
> >I'll make it to the AAS National Conference in November, which might
> >be called one of the "close out" American commerative meetings, to be
> >on panel about what NASA's first 50 years offers in the way of
> >projections about the next 50.
>
> I think that the question of whether or not there will even be a NASA
> fifty years from now is worth asking.

Nope, it'll be replaced by DOSE (Department Of Space Exploration)...

Rand Simberg

unread,
Sep 10, 2007, 1:47:16 PM9/10/07
to
On Mon, 10 Sep 2007 10:43:04 -0700, in a place far, far away, Eric
Chomko <pne.c...@comcast.net> made the phosphor on my monitor glow

in such a way as to indicate that:

>On Sep 9, 10:49 am, simberg.interglo...@org.trash (Rand Simberg)
>wrote:
>> On Sun, 09 Sep 2007 07:31:22 -0700, in a place far, far away, Matt
>> <MattWri...@AOL.com> made the phosphor on my monitor glow in such a
>> way as to indicate that:
>>
>> >Alas, work schedules will force us to miss the big commemorations.
>> >I'll make it to the AAS National Conference in November, which might
>> >be called one of the "close out" American commerative meetings, to be
>> >on panel about what NASA's first 50 years offers in the way of
>> >projections about the next 50.
>>
>> I think that the question of whether or not there will even be a NASA
>> fifty years from now is worth asking.
>
>Nope, it'll be replaced by DOSE (Department Of Space Exploration)...

That's quite unlikely.

Eric Chomko

unread,
Sep 10, 2007, 1:55:51 PM9/10/07
to
On Sep 10, 1:47 pm, simberg.interglo...@org.trash (Rand Simberg)
wrote:

> On Mon, 10 Sep 2007 10:43:04 -0700, in a place far, far away, Eric
> Chomko <pne.cho...@comcast.net> made the phosphor on my monitor glow

I guess we'll just have to wait the 50 years and find out...

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages