For all you religious fanatics, tomorrow is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, and I'll post about him tomorrow. But October 4th is also the fiftieth anniversary of the fight of Sputnik Zemlyi, the first man-made satellite, and the CCCP's entry in the Space Race. Sputnik Zemlyi means "Traveling companion of the earth." it was just a silver ball with antennae, 23 inches in diameter and 184 pounds. It terrified people in the U.S.A. and got people thinking about the importance of good science programs in schools, something which is out of style nowadays.
I was a little kid, not even in school yet, but I used to listen to the conversations of the adults, so I was aware of Sputnik and how worried my Republican parents were about the whole "Commies-have-beaten-us-into-space" thang. This was the same year that my parents won sports cars in contests, mere weeks apart from each other. My father had won a red MGB in a contest at work, and my mother entered a contest at the local supermarket and won a red Isetta, a weird, three-wheeled BMW. The door was in the front end of the car and the entire front opened up. Mom and Dad called it the "Sputnik", and since I was a little guy and couldn't see out of the window of the car, I thought it might be flying, just like sputnik.
Grandpa Ike really had a thing about sputnik, in fact, I think he was the one who named the Isetta sputnik. That Christmas he bought a star-shaped Christmas tree topper with a red light in it, similar to the one pictured here, and called it sputnik. Now that I think about it, people seemed to name almost anything round or spacey-looking "sputnik" in 1957! From what I understand, Herb Caen made-up the name "Beatnik" by combining "Sputnik" with the "Beats." Well, Alan Ginsburg was round even then, and of course, always met the second classification.
Think of all the wonderful things we have because of Sputnik freaking out the people of the U.S.A.: we had a space program, electric technology grew in leaps and bounds; we now have weather satellites; in fact, we have so many satellites up there that it looks like I-5 at rush hour around the fragile earth, our island home. And of course, there is the most important gift Sputnik gave us, Tang. You know, here in Panamá you can get maracuya (passion fruit) flavoured Tang! Pretty cool, huh!
This was another episode of Grampa Mickey Goes On and On and On