Monday, Apr. 19, 2010


On Dec. 6, 1957, two months after the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite into orbit, the U.S. tried to launch its own. The space race was on, and everyone was watching. Unfortunately for democracy, whereas the U.S.S.R. had Sputnik, the U.S. had "Kaputnik" (a.k.a. "Flopnik" or "Dudnik"). The rocket carrying the Vanguard TV3 satellite only made it about four feet off its Cape Canaveral pad before losing thrust and exploding in humiliating fashion. The press had a lot to say about the dismal failure. As the New York Herald Tribune summed up, "The people in Washington should damn well keep quiet until they have a grapefruit or at least something orbiting around up there." The following year, the U.S. finally launched its first satellite — and created NASA.