Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October Sky 2010

Remember the Cold War?  Or for readers much younger than me, remember hearing about it in history then?  The main players were the USA versus the USSR.

On October 4, 1957, the former Soviet Union, launched the first artificial satellite into orbit, called Sputnik, loosely translating from Russian meaning "traveling companion of the earth." This should have been a cause of celebration in the West as it was in the East, for Russia's giant leap in technology and science. Not!

Instead, Sputnik caused great angst in the West, especially in the United States, which felt caught with its technological pants down. With US public support, this game changing "October surprise" of 1957 launched the space race and precipitated the formation of NASA on October 1, 1958.

The month of October in the late 1950s were interesting times.

Sputnik also inspired a coal miner's son and his classmates in West Virginia as told in the 1999 movie - October Sky, which is an anagram of the book,"Rocket Boys." From 1957 through 1960,  Homer Hickham and friends with the encouragement of their science teacher Miss Riley, through trial-and-error and much perseverance, learned to build rockets and get them to fly.

The following clip shows some of the Rocket Boys' struggles and triumphs:

That story was set over fifty years ago.

More information can be found at the Homer Hickam official Website:

What's up October 2010?

Not the space shuttle. Last flight of the space shuttle Discovery had been scheduled this October 21, 2010, but it has been postponed to early November. One more mission of the space shuttle Endeavor has been planned for 2011, which will mark the end of an era.

Since October 1958, the USSR has fallen apart. The US space shuttles are retired and not replaced. After the high of sending a man to the moon in 1969, NASA may be ending in a whimper, though there have been talks to re-energize space exploration.

Homer Hickham wrote a great article after the 30th anniversary of the moon landing - Time to Be Great Again

Maybe we need another Sputnik to get us going?


Sputnik from NASA astronomy picture of the day: 2007 October 4


  1. And now all the funding for our space program has been shut down...

  2. Right, Jan. NASA could have really used some of that stimulous money.