Once I watched a rocket launch from under a blanket…our TV set was ancient and the light was very dim, so unless the room was almost dark the image on the set was barely visible. I’m not sure of the year, or which of the early missions it was. My whole life back in those days, between 1957 and about 1965 , are catalogued according to babies that joined our little family.
Our oldest was just a few months old, and we were living in a trailer park outside of the base of Fort Hood, Texas. Our tiny television set was on a high shelf, and we had to stand right next to it in order to see anything in much detail. In the interest of accuracy, by the time the Soviets launched Sputnick in October 1957, my daughter was five months old, and we were stationed at the Oklahoma Military Academy, where facilities had been set up to accommodate army insturctors. We lived there for a year and a half.
Our connection to the United States Army accounted for much of my interest in space travel and life on other planets, and all kinds of innovative gadgets and scenarios that actually would become History within my lifetime. I have always been an avid fan of Science Fiction, and was working my way through the library shelves reading everything I could dealing with outer space. The only other book that occupied as much or more of my time during that era was Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care, having literally worn out my original copy of the Baby Manual.
So with that setting, the events leading up to the great space race between the United States and the Soviet Union were high on my “interests lists.” The Cold War was alive and well, and a source of vast panic and hysteria for young military wives, who feared the bell ringing in the night would be a call for hubby to go somewhere and do something to fight The Russians.
So it was with great interest and intrepidation that I pretty much stayed glued to the TV after the hoopla of the Russians having beaten us to the draw in launching a rocket, and then a month later…a dog named Laika, thus becoming the first Earth Creature ever to attempt space travel.
In January of 1958 we were absolutely ecstatic when th United States Army Ballastic Missile Agency sent up the first U.S. satellite into orbit.
Here’s a Timeline borrowed from the NASA site. For the entire timeline, please go to https://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/space-timeline.html
- October 4 – The Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into space.
- November 3 – The Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 was launched with a dog named Laika on board. Laika did not survive the voyage.
- January 31 – Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched by the United States when it was sent into orbit on January 31, 1958. It was designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology. The satellite was sent aloft from Cape Canaveral in Florida by the Jupiter C rocket that was designed, built, and launched by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under the direction of Dr. Wernher Von Braun.
- August 19 – The Soviet craft Sputnik 5 was launched, carrying the dogs Strelka and Belka. They became the first living beings to survive a trip into space.
- April 12 – Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.
- May 5 – Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space.
- May 25 – President Kennedy challenged the country to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
[The space saga continues… .]