Dec. 6, 1957 The U.S. roared back into the space game with the planned launch of its own inaugural satellite an event marked by rather less success than that of the Sputniks. The satellite was not much to look at a 3-lb. grapefruit-sized ball and neither was the pencil-thin Vanguard booster on which it was to be launched. Nevertheless, the U.S. flicked on the TV cameras, invited the world to watch and, at the appointed moment, lit the fuse. The rocket flew for a total of 2 sec. and rose a total of 4 ft. before eating itself in a massive launchpad explosion. Space-program officials, who had clearly not yet mastered the young art of rocketry, proved themselves far more adept at the old art of spin. Asked to explain the cause of the explosion, a spokesman denied that one had taken place at all. Asked to describe what had taken place on the pad, he answered, "Rapid burning."