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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Singing Satellites' praise: 50 years after Sputnik


Tomorrow will mark the 50th anniversary of the dawning of the Space Age as on October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into Earth's orbit. Despite the initial fears the event struck in the heart of 1950s America, made goofy with images of death rays from B-movies, the moment proved pivotal in the development of modern technologies that we often take for granted.

Spurred by the achievement of its Cold War rival, the U.S. poured money and resources into space exploration, which in turn kick started the nation's appetite for math and science. As we filled the sky with these metallic wonders, it became easier to communicate with each other across the globe, and the planet grew a little smaller. We also gained a clearer view out into the universe, and some perspective as to our place in it.

Live international news feeds, cell phones, GPS, the Internet, Google Earth ... the list of modern marvels that flowed from that singular human accomplishment is constantly growing. Unfortunately the technology has become so commonplace, many of us have lost sight of the science behind it, choosing instead to while away our hours focusing on the images of globe-trotting celebrities the satellites beam into our homes.

We glassy eyed Americans could use another great space race to give a boost to our flabby imaginations, and one may just be in the offing. India, Japan, and China are all interested in leaving their footprints on the moon (see Japan, China join India in race for lunar exploration), and that might ruffle our nationalistic feathers a bit. Until that battle is re-joined, I'll take this moment to join Lou Reed in sending a little love back in time to Sputnik — it may have looked a little funny, but it was the first to put that glimmer of excitement in our eye.

Satellite of Love
by Velvet Underground

In this world as we know it
Sorrows come and go
Now we see the human race
Has put its footprints on the moon's face

Satellite's gone up to the sky
But it's not as nice as looking in your eyes

Woh, take it for a little while
No, I could watch it on TV, yeah

Satellite of love, oh, satellite of love
Satellite of love, satellite of

Satellite's gone up to the sky
And it's going to drive me out of my mind

Woh, take it for a little while
No, I can watch it on TV, yeah

Satellite of love, satellite of love
Satellite of love, satellite of

I've been told, baby, you've been bold
To winkin', blinkin' and nod
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
To winkin', blinkin' and nod

Satellite of love, satellite of love
Satellite of love, satellite of

Satellite of love
Satellite of love, it's just a little bit of
A satellite of love
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