The whole country is remembering today so I will do my bit. The moon landing has a lot of memories to trigger for me. I graduated college in 1957 and was commissioned a Regular USMC officer since the way I got to go to college was through the Regular NROTC Program. That was my first break even if it cost some time the Marine Corps did a lot for me. In October of 1957 Sputnik I, launched by the USSR,
was the first artificial earth satellite. The Soviet Union launched it into an elliptical low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957. The surprise success precipitated the American Sputnik crisis, began the Space Age and triggered the Space Race, a part of the larger Cold War. The launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments.I go back to this because the moon landing happened in a context. We were in a race and Sputnik scared a lot of people. The moon landing reversed the score, so to speak, in the minds of many people. Read on below and I'll tell why this made it possible for me to have a career as a University Professor.
Sputnik was also scientifically valuable. The density of the upper atmosphere could be deduced from its drag on the orbit, and the propagation of its radio signals gave information about the ionosphere.
Sputnik 1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year from Site No.1/5, at the 5th Tyuratam range, in Kazakh SSR (now at the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The satellite travelled at about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 mi) per hour, taking 96.2 minutes to complete each orbit. It transmitted on 20.005 and 40.002 MHz which were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on 26 October 1957. Sputnik 1 burned up on 4 January 1958, as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after travelling about 60 million km (37 million miles) and spending 3 months in orbit.
Here's a bit more on Sputnik's role in all this:
Further information: Sputnik crisisOne of the responses our Nation came up with was funding for graduate work in science through a number of agencies. I applied for fellowships to graduate school and was awarded about six, the federally funded ones were from the USPHS, NSF, and the Atomic Energy Commission. Later after obtaining my PhD I also was awarded a USPHS Postdoctoral Fellowship that allowed me to study Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute in Israel and this was with my wife and two kids!
“ Our movies and television programs in the fifties were full of the idea of going into space. What came as a surprise was that it was the Soviet Union that launched the first satellite. It is hard to recall the atmosphere of the time. John Logsdon ”
Teams of visual observers at 150 stations in the United States and other countries were alerted during the night to watch for the Soviet sphere at dawn and during the evening twilight. They had been organized in Project Moonwatch to sight the satellite through binoculars or telescopes as it passed overhead. The USSR asked radio amateurs and commercial stations to record the sound of the satellite on magnetic tape.
News reports at the time pointed out that "anyone possessing a short wave receiver can hear the new Russian earth satellite as it hurtles over his area of the globe". Directions, provided by the American Radio Relay League were to "Tune in 20 megacycles sharply, by the time signals, given on that frequency. Then tune to slightly higher frequencies. The 'beep, beep' sound of the satellite can be heard each time it rounds the globe," The first recording of Sputnik 1's signal was made by RCA engineers near Riverhead, Long Island. They then drove the tape recording into Manhattan for broadcast to the public over NBC radio. However, as Sputnik rose higher over the East Coast, its signal was picked up by ham station W2AEE, the ham radio station of Columbia University. Students working in the university's FM station, WKCR, made a tape of this, and were the first to rebroadcast the Sputnik 1 signal to the American public (or such of it as could receive the FM station).
At first the Soviet Union agreed to use equipment "compatible" with that of the United States, but later announced the lower frequencies. The White House declined to comment on military aspects of the launch, but said it "did not come as a surprise." On 5 October the Naval Research Laboratory announced it had recorded four crossings of Sputnik-1 over the United States. U.S. President Eisenhower obtained photographs of the Soviet facilities from Lockheed U-2 flights conducted since 1956.
The USSR's launch of Sputnik spurred the United States to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA or DARPA) in February 1958 to regain a technological lead.
1957 – October 4th – the USSR launches Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite.
1958 – February 7th – In response to the launch of Sputnik, the US Department of Defense issues directive 5105.15 establishing the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).
The organization united some of America's most brilliant people, who developed the United States' first successful satellite in 18 months. Several years later ARPA began to focus on computer networking and communications technology.
These Fellowships were awarded directly to me. They were not loans but grants. The result was that I spent my life serving the people of our Nation as a professor at many Universities, including Harvard.
Contrast this with the situation our young people face today. The funding for education has disappeared ( do we need another Sputnik scare?) and we have these enslaving student loans in an overpriced educational system and the future looks bleak.
So the moon landing made us all grateful for the scientists and engineers who were called into service of their Country during this time. The results were well worth every penny the American people invested in their young during that period.The Political background involved
The intense and expensive effort devoted in the 1960s to achieving first an unmanned and then ultimately a manned moon landing can be hard to understand in normal situations, but becomes easier to comprehend in the political context of its historical era. World War II with its 60 million dead, half Soviets, was fresh in the memory of all adults. In the 1940s, the war had introduced many new and deadly innovations including blitzkrieg-style surprise attacks used in the invasion of Poland and in the attack on Pearl Harbor; the V-2 rocket, a ballistic missile which killed thousands in attacks on London and Antwerp; and the atom bomb, which killed hundreds of thousands in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the 1950s, tensions mounted between the two ideologically opposed superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union that had emerged as victors in the conflict, particularly after the development by both countries of the hydrogen bomb.After Sputnik:
The American response to these Soviet achievements was to greatly accelerate previously existing military space and missile projects and to create a civilian space agency, NASA. Military efforts were initiated to develop and produce mass quantities of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that would bridge the so-called missile gap and enable a policy of deterrence to nuclear war with the Soviets known as Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. These newly developed missiles were made available to civilians of NASA for various projects (which would have the added benefit of demonstrating the payload, guidance accuracy and reliabilities of American ICBMs to the Soviets). While NASA stressed peaceful and scientific uses for these rockets, their use in various lunar exploration efforts also had secondary goal of realistic, goal-oriented testing of the missiles themselves and development of associated infrastructure, just as the Soviets were doing with their R-7. The tight schedules and lofty goals selected by NASA for lunar exploration also had an undeniable element of generating counter-propaganda to show to other countries that American technological prowess was the equal and even superior to that of the Soviets.So Neil Armstrong and all the others are true American heros for they did much more than make it to the moon. They proved the value of investing in education and for finding peaceful ways to compete with others. We owe them a lot. Thanks!