Space: Another Echo

A glittering new star appeared in the heavens last week, one that will be seen by more people than any other man-made object in history. It is the tissue-thin balloon satellite, Echo II, as tall as a 13-story building.

At its birth, it was tucked inside a small canister perched atop a Thor-Agena B rocket booster. Launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, Echo II rocketed into a polar orbit 642 to 816 miles above the earth. As it sped toward Madagascar about an hour after launch, the canister popped open, releasing the sturdy skin of the balloon, composed of two...

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