Science: A Different Drummer

The scene was tense, the room hushed. At a barren table in the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., Dr. John Robinson Pierce gulped coffee and nibbled nervously on a doughnut. A loudspeaker clicked on, long enough for a brief, metallic announcement: "Trinidad still tracking." Fidgeting, Pierce waited in the silence that followed, twisting the coffee cup in his hands. Suddenly, the speaker crackled again, and an excited voice relayed a message from Australia: "Woomera has it!" Pierce leaped out of his chair, his glasses bouncing on his nose. "It's in orbit," he cried. "Echo is in orbit." An hour later,...

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