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The cultural significance of the Vanguard 1 satellite - oldest human object in orbit

18 Mar 2018, 00:20 UTC
The cultural significance of the Vanguard 1 satellite - oldest human object in orbit
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The Vanguard I satellite, launched successfully on March 17, 1958, is now the oldest manufactured object in orbit. It is no longer transmitting, but is in a highly stable LEO orbit with every prospect of remaining there for perhaps another 600 years. It is a physical testimony to the momentous period when humans first ventured beyond the atmosphere. Despite its failure to be first in the ‘Space Race’, Project Vanguard is acknowledged as ‘the progenitor of all American space exploration today’ [1]. For example, the Minitrack network, set up for Vanguard, became the backbone of the NASA Satellite Tracking and Data Acquisition Network used to track all the early generation of satellites [1].Vanguard 1. (Image: NASA)Unlike Sputnik 1 and Explorer 1, Vanguard was designed as a scientific satellite with no military 'taint'. It was launched using sounding rockets rather than missile technology, and originally was to have flown four experiments, including James Van Allen’s. In the spirit of international cooperation created by the InternationalGeophysical Year, the Vanguard team recruited a network of volunteers across the world to carry out visual tracking in ProjectMoonwatch [2]. As it turned out the Moonwatch volunteers first applied their training and equipment to pick up ...

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