On this day…

… in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, and in doing so set in motion a chain of events which eventually led to the Internet (because it spurred the US government into setting up ARPA). See here and here for the gory details. Sputnik weighed 184 pounds. It was 23 inches in diameter and was made from steel.

I was 11 at the time, living in Kerry, and I remember the day vividly. I spent the evening glued to the radio listening to recordings of the satellite’s strange, disembodied beeps from the Jodrell Bank radio observatory and from amateur radio operators. (Later, we learned that the Russian designers originally wanted the device to broadcast a message in morse code, but weight limitations precluded all but the most elementary oscillator.) The signal continued until the transmitter batteries ran out on October 26.

I also remember feeling frustrated by cloud cover which prevented us from scanning the night sky.