Explorer I – 50th Anniversary

I caught the C-Span celebration of the 50th anniversary of the succesful launch of America’s first satellite – Explorer I.

Explorer I

C-Span ran two great sets of interviews. One was Astronauts Look Back, featuring Scott Carpenter, Charlie Duke and Thomas Stafford.

Scott Carpenter Carpenter flew the second American manned orbital flight on May 24, 1962. He piloted his Aurora 7 spacecraft through three revolutions of the earth, reaching a maximum altitude of 164 miles. The spacecraft landed in the Atlantic Ocean about 1000 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral after 4 hours and 54 minutes of flight time.

Charlie Duke served as lunar module pilot of Apollo 16 in 1972 where he and John W. Young landed at the Descartes Highlands and conducted three EVAs, making Duke the tenth man to walk upon the surface of the Moon. He also served as backup lunar module pilot for Apollo 17. He logged 265 hours in space, plus 21 hours and 28 minutes of extra vehicular activity.

Thomas P Stafford piloted Gemini VI during the first rendezvous in space, and helped develop techniques to prove the basic theory and practicality of a space rendezvous. In June 1966 he commanded Gemini IX and performed a demonstration of an early rendezvous that would be used in Apollo 10: the first optical rendezvous; and a lunar orbit abort rendezvous.

Stafford was commander of Apollo 10 in May 1969, which included the first flight of the lunar module during a Moon orbit, the first rendezvous while in the Moon environment, and the entire lunar landing mission except for the actual landing. He also did reconnaissance and evaluation of future landing sites for Apollo 11.

Stafford and his crewmates, John Young and Gene Cernan, were cited in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest speed ever attained by man—during Apollo 10’s return from the moon, the spacecraft reached 24,791 statute miles per hour.

The second event from C-Span was The Future of Space Exploration. This broadcast featured Homer Hickam, author of “Rocket Boys”, which was made into the movie “October Sky”. Hickam recounts his days in 1957, looking up into the sky at dusk and watching Sputnik wink across the sky.

Also included in the program is Steve Cook, manager of the Ares project (Ares Scale Mockup Launch), Tim Pickens of Orion Propulsion and Leonard David, science writer with Space.Com. There are great discussions about the future of the American space program, and other space programs.

Some additional sites of interest are Explorer I and the ever popular Wikipedia entry.

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