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In this, the first history of artifical satellites and their uses, Helen Gavaghan shows how the idea of putting an object in orbit around the earth changed from science fiction to indespensible technology in the twinkling of an eye. Thanks to satellites, we can now send data and images anywhere in the world in an instant. The satellite-based navigational system can pinpoint your exact location anywhere in the world; it is so precise that, from outer space, it can detect the sag on an airplane's wing. Focusing on three major areas of development - navigational satellites, communications, and weather observation and forecasting - Gavaghan tells the remarkable inside story of how obscure men and women, often laboring under strict secrecy, made the extraordinary scientific and technological discoveries needed to make these miracles happen. Written by a science journalist with support from the Sloane Foundation, the book describes the birth of the modern scientific era in the twentieth century, with creation of satellite technology. The narrative is part history - beginning with the Russian-U.S. contest with the launch of Sputnik; part politics, as scientists and visionary engineers compete for scarce funding that will bring their dreams to reality; partly the story of the singular and fascinating individuals who were present at the creation of our modern technological era.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Prologue The Seed

Prologue: The Seed

Abstract
The scientific mind is a curious thing. It probes what others take for granted, including, on one night in 1950, a multilayered chocolate cake. Some of America’s brightest scientific minds were focused on that cake at the home of James Van Allen, who was to become famous as the discoverer of the earth’s radiation belts and who was hosting a dinner for the eminent British geophysicist Sydney Chapman. With admirable attention to detail, the collective scientific intellect verified that the cake had twenty-one layers. That cake did much to put the scientists in the kind of mood from which expansive conversation flows and big ideas are born.
Helen Gavaghan

1. New Moon

Abstract
If they had known then what they know now, would they have done the job? They would surely have been daunted, even given the imperatives of the Cold War. But they did not know how difficult space exploration would be. The “cold warriors” had their incentives: intercontinental ballistic missiles and reconnaissance satellites. And the enthusiasts, who sometimes were also cold warriors, had their long-held aim: to go beyond Earth’s atmosphere. By Thursday evening, October 3, 1957, their destination was less than a day away.
Helen Gavaghan

2. Cocktails and the Blues

Abstract
Lieutenant General Anatoly Blagonravov sipped vodka. In Tyuratam it was the early hours of Saturday, October 5, 1957. But in Washington,D.C., it was still the evening of Friday, October 4, and Blagonravov was hosting a reception at the Soviet embassy for delegates to the IGY’s conference on rockets and satellites.Sputnik Iwas in orbit, had, in fact, already passed undetected over America. It would not again go unnoticed.
Helen Gavaghan

3. Follow That Moon

Abstract
Pickering drank the toast. He felt curiously detached from his surround-ings. What thoughts did the shock loosen? Probably something like, “… it could have been us, what now, they said imminent, they told us…. ” Certainly he knew better than anyone else present that his laboratory, working with von Braun’s team, might already have had a satellite aloft. And he had speculated often enough with colleagues at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that the Russians must be ready for a launch soon. They’d feared the event, but they hadn’t truly believed it could happen.
Helen Gavaghan

4. The Space Age

Abstract
What does the space age offer, and what might it yet be? Perhaps it is no more than an age in which new tools and weapons expand our knowledge and ability to trade and fight wars. A glorified Stone, Bronze, or Iron Age, during which our usual activities will be different only in that they extend beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Or is the space age essentially different; was the launch of Sputnik Ithe turning point Tsiolkovsky predicted when he wrote of mankind leaving the earth in pursuit of light and space? Not Russians, Chinese, Frenchmen, or Americans, but mankind, building cities together in space, as he advocated in his science fiction book Beyond the Earth.
Helen Gavaghan

Navigation

Frontmatter

5. Polaris and Transit

Abstract
Though Sputnik I was a shock to America, it also furnished the United States with the means to develop a technique that allowed the Polaris submarines to aim their nuclear missiles at Soviet cities with greater accuracy.
Helen Gavaghan

6. Heady Days

Abstract
When Wall Street opened on Monday, investors scrambled to buy stock in companies connected with missile programs, abandoning other issues and pushing prices to their lowest level in two years.
Helen Gavaghan

7. Pursuit of Orbit

Abstract
Bill Guier sees an equation as paragraphs of lucid prose. There are nuances and implications stemming from the relationship that the equation establishes between different aspects of the physical world. To George Weiffenbach, numbers, their intrinsic values and relationship to one another, are like a film. How they change tells him how the physical events that they represent are unfolding. These ways of viewing the world are quite usual for physicists, and the one is typical of theoretician, the other of the experimentalist.
Helen Gavaghan

8. From Sputnik II to Transit

Abstract
On November 8, 1957, Ralph Gibson dipped into the director’s discretionary fund for $20,000 to fund Project D-54-to determine a satellite orbit from Doppler data, and he assigned technical and engineering support to Guier and Weiffenbach.
Helen Gavaghan

9. Kershner’s Roulette

Abstract
If people leave a legacy in the eyes and voices of those who knew them well, then Richard Kershner should rest easy. Kershner led the Transit team with an authority bestowed willingly by those who worked for him.
Helen Gavaghan

10. The Realities of Space Exploration

Abstract
Parsons auditorium was crowded. Everyone was eager to hear the news as it was relayed from the Cape. They knew about the delays that had accumulated during the final countdown, heard the announcement to switch off radio frequency generators at the lab. The moments before a launch are always tense. In the final seconds the tension was alleviated, as the voice from the Cape intoned, “twelve, eleven, ten, eight, whoops, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.” The Thor-Able rocket lifted off, carryingTransit lAaloft. They knew that Air Force radars were tracking its ascent; that engineers were calculating position, cross checking their slide-rule calculations and sending course corrections to the launch vehicle as needed. They heard the satellite’s transmitters and knew that everything was going well.
Helen Gavaghan

11. Move Over,Sputnik

Abstract
In the late 1950s, there was no meeting of minds across the ideological divide.
Helen Gavaghan

Meteorology

Frontmatter

12. A Time of Turbulence

Abstract
Lucretius sought rational, deterministic explanations for the weather. These turned out to be wrong, but one suspects that the Roman philosopher may have guessed this for himself. He wrote that it was better to venture on an incorrect rational explanation than to submit to superstition: no sacrifices for him to propitiate the gods. And no sacrifices, except of time and effort, for those who during the past hundred years or so have wrestled to turn meteorology into a science.
Helen Gavaghan

13. The Bird’s-Eye View

Abstract
During World War II, Japanese paper balloons floating on currents I the upper reaches of the lower atmosphere carried incendiary bombs across the Pacific to the United States. They caused some forest fires, which were quickly extinguished. Censorship kept news of the few fires from the public, and thus the balloons did not precipitate the widespread consternation that Japanese strategists had hoped for.
Helen Gavaghan

14. Keep it Simple, Suomi

Abstract
It rained on the morning of Verner Suomi’s memorial service. Deep throated Midwestern thunder played its inimitable summer accompaniment. And as one might expect among people gathered to celebrate Suomi’s life, there were questions—asked humorously, sadly—about just who it was that was responsible for the weather.
Helen Gavaghan

15. Storm Patrol

Abstract
In his long, narrow office at the University of Wisconsin, with awards hung on the walls (others are stuffed in drawers in the basement), Verner Suomi recalled the first spin-scan camera that he and Bob Parent proposed to NASA in the fall of 1964. “It was disgustingly simple. The stuff on the ground that you need to put the pictures together, that was not so simple.”
Helen Gavaghan

Communications

Frontmatter

16. The Players

Abstract
On October 4, 1957, only thirty-six people in the United States could call Europe simultaneously, via AT&T’s recently installed transatlantic submarine cable—TAT-1. If the ionosphere was stable that day, about a further one hundred high-frequency radio circuits would have been available.
Helen Gavaghan

17. Of Moons and Balloons

Abstract
More than thirty years later, in his home in Palo Alto, John Pierce disposes concisely and precisely of questions about his pioneering days,tugging all the while at a bushy eyebrow. With his sloppy yellow Labrador retriever in attendance, Pierce reminisces politely about Echo and Telstar. Clearly, he has told the story many times, and he says, “I prefer to look forwards rather than back.”
Helen Gavaghan

18. Telstar

Abstract
Telstar captured the popular imagination in a way that it is hard to believe any satellite, especially a communications satellite, could do today. Perhaps it was the name; euphonious enough to make the satellite the eponymous star of its own pop song, released by the British pop group the Tornados. Certainly AT&T’s impressive publicity machine, one that rivaled even that of NASA, aided the process.
Helen Gavaghan

19. The Whippersnapper

Abstract
Pat Hyland is one of those people who are referred to as larger than life. He died in 1992 at the age of 95, having lived in a world where gals were gals and alcohol had yet to be banished from the corporate boardroom. In his time, he made some spectacular mistakes, succeeded spectacularly, and knew and influenced the “great and the good.” By 1958, he was running (and rescuing) the Hughes Aircraft Company, operating, so he recalls, an open-door policy through which any of his staff could walk. Through that door, one morning, walked Harold Rosen and Donald Williams.
Helen Gavaghan

20. Syncom

Abstract
“We had from our first presentation improved the control system quite a lot and we continued to improve it over the years. We got it down to two thrusters; then we started to work on the precession capabilities of one thruster. I had at first thought it would take four, but Don had come back very quickly with a major improvement.We had four for redundancy, but we still could precess it with one jet. NASA was skeptical about the single-pulse thruster.” Thus Rosen thirty years later.
Helen Gavaghan

21. Epilogue

Abstract
We are riding through the outskirts of a jungle in French Guiana. At the front of the bus a woman is instructing us in the use of a gas mask. The mask looks remarkably like a leftover from the First World War, and it seems to me unlikely that any of us will succeed in donning the apparatus should the rocket we are to watch spew noxious fumes in our direction. We are, after all, journalists and will have imbibed several glasses of something interesting by then.
Helen Gavaghan

Backmatter

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