Sunday, June 18, 2017

Cosmosphere, 2017: Part 7


If you haven't seen the previous segments, here are part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6 at these links.

As we continue our race in space, we read about those in charge who, instead of being the voices of reason, become the voices of arrogance.  Somehow I fear we in the U.S. have not learned from our past, but are doomed to repeat our arrogance.


In early 1957, the U.S. publicly stated they planned to launch a craft into space in time for the International Geophysical Year of 1957-8.  This announcement caused the Soviets to create what they thought was a compromised version of a spacecraft they had planned.

Compromised or not, this was the first satellite in space.  It was known as Sputnik 1, or "traveling companion" in Russian.  A group of German rocket engineers who had built the V-2 rocket program spent about a decade after World War II working for the Soviets on a way to get an artificial satellite into space.  This was the first of three embarrassments for the U.S. during the next five months.

This is a flight ready back-up of Sputnik 1.  The silver sphere with four long antennas was only about the size of a large beach ball, but caused panic in the U.S.  The beeping noise it played from space was heard in worldwide radio broadcasts.

As the U.S. was still reeling from being beaten into space, a month later the Soviet Union, under Nikita Khrushchev, launched Sputnik II, this time with a dog named Laika on board. 

This is a tragic story, which explains the mindset of the Soviets.  Please remember Mildred and Albert, the mice who returned safely from space and try not to cry when you read about Laika. 

Laika was a mixed breed dog taken from the streets of Moscow to become the first animal to orbit in space.  The Soviets had already sent 12 dogs into space in sub-orbital paths in the past.  Sending Laika was practically a given because the Soviets wanted to make an even bigger splash with Sputnik II.

If you read about this poor animal and the atrocities the Soviets put her through, you would feel pity, whether you are a dog lover, or not.  Three dogs were chosen for the experiment: one would be in the satellite, one would be a back-up, and one would be a control dog on the ground.

In order to adapt the dogs to the confines of the tiny cabin, they were kept in progressively smaller cages for periods of up to 20 days. The close confinement caused them to stop urinating or defecating, made them restless, and caused their overall condition to deteriorate.  They were subjected to loud noises similar to those that would occur at take-off, and were shaken in the tiny cabins.

But that is NOT the worst part.  Laika was a sweet, gentile dog, but was given a death sentence.   Prior to the launch, she and the backup dog were surgically implanted with electrodes to monitor their basic functions.  Once in orbit, there were signs she was in distress, but was eating.   The Soviet scientists had originally planned to euthanize Laika with a poisoned serving of food, but once records were revealed years later, it showed she died from the cabin overheating on the fourth orbit.  Over five months later, Sputnik II fell out of orbit and disintegrated on reentry, along with Laika's remains.

Due to the overshadowing political issues of the space race between the U.S. and the Soviets, the ethics of this animal were not called into question.  Sputnik II was not designed to be retrievable, and Laika had always been intended to die.  In the years that followed, however, many groups were upset about Laika's death, calling it unforgivable, and believed the Soviets should have found a way to bring Laika home.  Dr. Chambers would have agreed.

Political signs of the times overshadowed ethics and morals.

This shows the Vanguard Rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral (in Florida) in December, 1957.

This shows how the U.S. tried to respond quickly to the Soviets with the Vanguard.  Unlike the Soviets, who sent their rockets into space in secret, the U.S. openly welcomed everyone to view the event.  Horrified officials watched as the rocket blew up on the launchpad, live in front of a nationwide television audience.

A photo of a flight ready Vanguard.

Because the U.S. tried to launch their first satellite before it was ready, the Vanguard was a total disaster.   The mere word Vanguard was synonymous with failure and embarrassment.  Khrushchev called it a "crushed grapefruit."  Of the 10 later attempts to launch these satellites, only three survived the launch.

Vanguard I was the first satellite to be solar powered.  Although communication with it was lost in 1964, it remains the oldest man made satellite still in orbit.  In March, 2008 it logged its 50th year in Earth orbit and is still orbiting today.

Somehow I missed out on the Explorer 1, in which women calculated trajectories by hand.  This was before Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, aka Human Computers, were featured in the book and the movie "Hidden Figures."  Even after the Americans got the Explorer 1 satellite into orbit in January, 1958, using rocket technology developed principally by Germans and Werner von Braun who worked on the V-2, the Soviets were clearly in the lead.

Perhaps one of the biggest blunders of the Eisenhower administration was when the president decided to not use a rocket created by the Army, but to create an entirely new rocket for low orbit scientific experiments.

Eisenhower did not want to enter a space race with the Soviets and likely would not have made space flight a top level priority because he considered much of it a waste of resources.

The new rocket would be called Vanguard and would be created by civilian means.  Had the U.S. used the Army's rocket, we would have beaten the Soviets into space.  Instead, it took three years to create the doomed Vanguard, which gave the Soviets time to catch up and forge ahead.

When the Vanguard rocket was being developed, in response to Eisenhower's demands, the administration ordered research director, Wernher von Braun, not to attempt any satellite launches. When the Vanguard rocket failed on the first attempt to launch in December, 1957, the administration then turned to the Army, and von Braun was asked to launch a backup satellite as soon as possible.  He used a variation of his Redstone rocket.

This shows the Jupiter-C's nose cones.  The first successful satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral (now Cape Kennedy) in Florida in January, 1958 by the Jupiter-C, a special modification of the Redstone ballistic missile, that was designed, built, and launched by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under the direction of von Braun. Jupiter-C was a direct descendant of the German V-2 rocket.

The Space Race moved quickly in those days. Just four months after the Americans sent Explorer 1 into space, the Soviets launched their biggest and most scientifically important satellite yet.

Sputnik 3 left Earth in May, 1958.   The satellite also served as a scientific laboratory.  Its 12 instruments measured the composition of Earth's upper atmosphere, the areas in orbit where charged particles from the sun congregated, and bits of meteors swirling nearby. Its greatest discovery was finding the outer radiation belts of Earth.

It was designed by Sergei Korolev and may have been considered for Sputnik 1, but Korolev decided to be cautious and launch a smaller version first.  It stayed in orbit for two years.

The U.S. had now fallen even further behind in the space race and public outcry was swift and damning.  Eisenhower (shown in the center) proposed the establishment of a National Aeronautics and Space Agency.  He appointed  Dr. T. Keith Glennan (shown on the right) as NASA's first administrator and Dr. Hugh L. Dryden (shown on the left) as deputy administrator.

Eisenhower's proposal was accepted by Congress after he decided to create a single space agency which would conduct scientific space experiments for peaceful purposes only.  Thus, the National Aeronautic and Space Administration was born.  Most of us call it NASA!

The last part of NASA's name was changed from "agency" to "administration," because as an administration, NASA had broader authority to gather resources from other government bodies without relying on voluntary cooperation.

NASA's first job was playing catch-up to the Soviets, whose rockets continued to dominate the sky.  The task would not be easy, since the U.S. rockets either blew up or headed in the wrong direction.  The Soviets were not without failures, but they didn't share them with the world the way the U.S. did.

Ultimately, both countries set their sights on the moon, but neither country was able to reach it in the International Geophysical Year, 1958.


A series of Soviet Luna (moon) rockets were sent to the moon.

Luna 1 missed its intended impact with the Moon due to an incorrectly timed upper stage burn during its launch, and became the first spacecraft to fall into orbit around the sun.  However it was also the first craft to achieve escape velocity and the first artificial comet.

Luna 2 successfully hit the Moon's surface, becoming the first man-made object to reach the Moon.

Luna 3 rounded the Moon and returned the first photographs of its far side, which can never be seen from Earth.

All three events occurred in 1959.

Pioneer 4 was the first satellite to escape earth's gravity.  Its flyby mission sent back valuable radiation data.  An engineering model of the Pioneer 4 is on display.

In January, 1961, John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president and became a champion for the space program.

He challenged NASA to land a human on the moon by the end of the decade.

This is a really poor shot of the Mercury-Atlas 4, which blew up seconds after lift-off.  The debris was recovered from the ocean floor off the coast of Florida.



This is a marginally better photo of the Mercury-Atlas 4.


Kennedy was such a big fan of the space program, he took every NASA failure personally.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the entire Kennedy quote about space exploration.


Another thing I was looking forward to was the two portions of the Berlin Wall that are exhibited at the Cosmosphere.

For those of you who read German, I hope it's nothing offensive.

I hope you can read this. 



I wish I'd gotten a better photo of this plaque.  Possibly you can read most of the words.  It was the last section removed.

I remember seeing that video a few years ago on tv where Khrushchev pounds on a table and declares "we will bury you!"   When Kennedy came into office, Khrushchev was at the top of his game.  He believed because the Soviets dominated space, the rest of the world would see his communism as superior and wave the red flag.

Here Nikita Khrushchev stands with his fist extended with portions of  the Berlin Wall surrounding him.

My camera skills failed me as I tried to quickly take photos before the museum closed.


The three K's were Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Korolev, who was compared to von Braun in yesterday's post.  These three men are directly responsible for heating up the Cold War.  Had it not been for Korolev's rockets, there might not have been a Soviet space race.  Had it not been for Khrushchev, there might not have been the swagger, bluster, and threats.  And had it not been for Kennedy, we might never have made it successfully into space.

This is the thruster side of Korolev's R-7 Rocket.  In its day, it was the most powerful rocket on earth.

In 1957, Korolev's R-7 was the first and most powerful rocket on earth.  Fueling it on the special large launch pad took days.   It was definitely designed for spaceflight.


Today we made it all the way through the first section after the German room.  We saw the atomic war head, the Sputniks, the Kennedy Theater, the German wall, and one side of the RD-107 engine.  Next we will visit the rocket testing area and the Titan Rocket, which is outside.

This part of the museum is very convoluted, at least in my opinion, and I got turned around a couple of times.  Since time was no longer on our side, I had to rush through the remainder of the exhibits and didn't see much after the Gemini, except the Apollo-Soyez I asked Scott to help me find right after they announced the museum would close in 10 minutes.  It's actually the final exhibit, and thankfully was right next to the museum exit.

Thanks so much for joining me on this journey.  I hope you are learning more about space flight along with me.

9 thoughtful remarks:

froebelsternchen Susi said...

A fantastic museum - thank you for all the many images you share here again!
So sad with Laika and the other animals, I often look documentaries about WW I and II and I had seen a very good one about animals in space recently - the first time I heard the real story behind all this experiments with them. Very interesting all this always!Great to read such interesting facts here on your blog
Happy Sunday

CJ Kennedy said...

Other than Sputnick I, I never knew the Soviets were that far ahead of us in the Space Race. In the late 50's early 60s, I can remember test pilots from the air force base (north of Boston) breaking the sound barrier. We would be outside playing in the field next to Himself's house, hear the deafening boom and feel the shockwave vibrate. We thought Chuck Yeager was very cool and would buy the Beaman's clove gum he chewed.

In high school, I took a trip to Germany. Part of our tour included a trip to West Berlin which was in the middle of East Germany. We were stopped at the E. German border, East German soldiers boarded the bus and checked passports. Very scary. We entered West Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie. There were tank stoppers all around. West Berlin was very exciting and vibrant. If you didn't see the wall, you'd never know it was there (my perception as a teen)

Meggymay said...

With all this information you are sharing, it was the part where you talked about the Russian dogs that really got to me today. So much so that we should be grateful for these wonderful creatures and hope they never know what fate will have in store for them.
Yvonne xx

kathyinozarks said...

I have enjoyed the visit to the museum with you-thanks for all the photos
Happy Sunday Kathy

Sami said...

I enjoyed the Museum visit Elizabeth. As I read this post there's a program on TV about the Challenger disaster that killed that teacher that went into Space.
I lived in Germany at the time of the wall, in fact the wall came down days after we left Germany. I enjoyed visiting West Berlin, but we had to cross the boarder and all those "angry looking" armed guards were scary.

Sandra Cox said...

That is so sad about the dog. The rest of the information was fascinating. I'd love to go through the museum some day.

Krisha said...

Just did a quick scan of your post......I can NOT TOLLERATE ANY ANIMAL CRUELTY at all, and my heart cries for Laika, even thought it was years ago.

The "moving thing" has taken some twist and turns, but our house goes into escrow to morrow, with a contiguity that the buyer qualifies for the solar lease.....which should be no problem. DH and I are scrambling to get things packed and loaded into our enclosed trailer (we had to buy for storage) and finding a temporary place to rent.
I really miss my T-gang :(( Can't wait to get back to normal and have my creative time back and connecting to all my friends around the world.

My name is Erika. said...

That's a big museum isn't it? It has a lot in it and a lot of info. I couldn't read your post about Laika. Hearing it once was too much but I did not know about the Russian rockets that hit the moon. Now I thought the women (not just the book characters) in VA were working back in the 1950s so my mistake if they were not working back at Sputnik time. Looks like a cool museum. 😀I'm sitting at the transplant center in Boston waiting for my husbands bi weekly dr appointment so doing some catch up. Hugs erika

pearshapedcrafting said...

More fascinating facts and a further look at this museum makes me wish I could go, although i didn't like reading about Laika! Chrisx