July 30, 2008 #013 - Luna 3, Echo

On October 7, 1959 the Russian space craft Luna 3 began to record images of the back side of the moon. To a young boy who loved to pretend he was in orbit over the moon while looking through his telescope these pictures were unimaginable. I read science fiction but no one really believed that space craft would ever go to these places. That was only a fantasy for children. I cut out the picture from the newspaper and saved it very carefully as a scientist would preserve an important specimen. I have scanned that clipping still preserved in plastic which I have kept for almost 50 years.

In August of 1960 the United States launched the first successful Echo satellite. This was actually a huge silvered 100 foot in diameter balloon that was inflated at an orbital altitude of almost a thousand miles. The local paper would print the time for best observation. Evening passes were best and we would go out and watch it pass over. It was much like Venus at it's brightest but moved fast across the sky. It was a thrill to watch. You could even follow it with the telescope if you were quick enough. The best view was when there were clouds with lots of openings. It was a sight to watch it pass behind clouds and then jump out in the clear areas, it gave a 3D perspective which I never tired of watching. Yes I still catch the Space Station whenever I can but Echo was the first satellite for a boy.

Clear Sky - Rich

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