Sputnikfest 2014


Rahr-West Art Museum - click HERE for more info!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The alien pet contest for Sputnikfest 2012 saw a variety of entries that would have warranted an additional chapter in Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials. 
Posted here is a photo of The Cat from Planet Yoda – a rare hairless Sphinx cat breed dressed up for the occasion.  The first photo shows this Kosmic Kitty Kat Cat in his landing craft surveying the local terrain. The second photo shows yours truly (Planet Terry) protecting this space-faring feline from falling space debris with a specially designed (and highly classified) hand-held Sputnik Repelling Space Debris Shield.    

Keep sending in your addresses.  On October 16 someone will be the proud owner of a Sputnik Event Staff t-shirt!  Planet Terry

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sputnikfest 2012 was a huge success.  It was a blast!  In the months leading up to the event I tried to post in this forum at least once a week.  For the next few months I will be posting a little less frequently, but I do intend to keep posting - and will ramp up again & post more frequently as we near Sputnikfest 2013 (gee, I suppose I'll have to change the title of the blog)
From the cake auction to the alien pet contest to the aluminum foil costume contest - you just had to be there.  The pictures don't do the event justice, but I do have lots of great photos to share and will be posting these in this forum from time to time. I'll start with this group of Sputnikfest partiers which I will call the "Area 51 Bikers."  This group apparently attended both Lobsterfest and Sputnikfest (I gather that from the lobster necklaces they are wearing) and they do know how to celebrate the day - they came properly attired with aluminum foil hats!
I quoted Sherry Dewane in a previous post as saying that anything in Wisconsin with "fest" in the name means "enough beer to launch a satellite."  That was the certainly the situation at Sputnikfest this year, but I am happy to report that everyone celebrated responsibly, in accordance with the "little reminders" posted all along the bar at the event.  (see below).

I can tell from the "statistics" area of this blog that people from all over the world have been reading my ramblings here since I started posting.  If you are reading, I am curious as to what brought you to this forum.  What is your interest in Sputnikfest?  Or were you searching on some related term and just happened to stumble onto this blog?
I have decided to institute a contest, of sorts - if you are reading this and are motivated to share your address by the possibility of winning a free t-shirt, here is the deal: Email me at sputnikfest@gmail.com - tell me what your interest in Sputnikfest is, or at least what you were looking for when you found this blog - and give me your mailing address.  Today is September 16, 2012.  I will keep track of everyone who emails me - and one month from today, on October 16, 2012, I will select one address at random and mail you - completely free (I'll cover the shipping costs whether domestic or international) a Sputnikfest Event Staff t-shirt.  This will be a "large" lime green t-shirt worn at the event by yours truly.  (Don't worry, I'll wash it first.)  Not available to the general public, these are very limited in availability - they feature the Sputnikfest logo on the front and "EVENT STAFF" on the back.  Sort of like winning a "game worn jersey," from your favorite team, no?  Okay - probably not.  But I look forward to hearing from you!  Planet Terry [follow-up note - this shirt was sent to a reader from Australia!]

Friday, September 7, 2012

The night before Sputnikfest and all through the town
The hype has been building – the press gathering round
Telling stories of space-junk that fell down from space
And raised Cold-War fears at the height of the race
Between East and the West to see who could be first
To conquer the heavens - break free from the earth.
Though back at the time this event seemed quite scary,
In historical context, we choose to make merry
We honor our past and we now think its neat -
That the Russians back then punched a hole in our street.
So join us tomorrow and find out just why
We are glad that this Sputnik fell down from the sky! 
See you tomorrow.  Planet Terry

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sputnikfest has been fortunate to have children’s illustrator Tina Kugler, a former Manitowoc native, share her considerable talents with us in the form of an annual Sputnikfest poster.  The 2102 edition, shown at right, will be available for purchase at this year's event.  Here is a link for a gallery where you can view the all the previous Sputnikfest posters, hosted at Tina’s own website.
The Sputnik image has been used to sell a wide variety of products from Wi-Fi to baby clothes.  The idea of a Sputnik Vodka (or “Wotka” as Pavel Checkov would say) just seems like a natural.  What could be more natural when combining cold war nostalgia, Russia, and Wisconsin – than a Vodka Flavored Beer!  Not sure where you can buy this stuff – but we really need to get them on board as a sponsor for Sputnikfest.  Hey out there – Vodka-Flavored-Beer-People – we need to talk!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

“Don’t you just hate people who drop in unexpectedly?”  So went the text on the poster for the 1966 move “The Russians Are Coming.”  The Russians dropped in on Manitowoc unexpectedly on September 5, 1962.    
   About 4:30 AM Central Time on September 5, 1962 Sputnik IV broke up and plunged to earth over Wisconsin.  Law enforcement officers in Eagle River Wisconsin reported seeing “24 flaming pieces flash across the sky.”  A bus driver traveling between Escanaba and Green Bay saw the spectacle and recounts “As we watched, the lights began to spread out, one behind the other.  I continued to drive south until I was about a half mile from the intersection of highways 41 and 141.  The time was about 5:00 AM.  The lights became brighter and we counted 25 or 30 of them passing almost directly over the bus; they were traveling at a great rate of speed.  As the first one disappeared over the bus, I looked out the windshield, but could not see them.  I looked out the left side window and saw them in the direction of Manitowoc.”
   Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Wisner of Kellnersville on their way to milk cows, saw objects in sky and heard five explosions.  The Reverend Vernon Anderson’s wife was awakened by the sound of an impact, but after going to the window and not seeing anything she went back to bed. 
   At 5:45 AM Manitowoc police officers Marvin Bauch and Ronald Rusbolt saw something laying in the road in front of the museum.   An hour later, at 6:45 AM they took another look, realized it was metal and decided to pick it up to get it out of the street.  Finding it too hot to handle, they pushed it to curb with their feet, assuming it was a piece of slag fallen off a truck from one of the local foundries.  At noon they heard news reports of the re-entry of the satellite and went back to recover the piece. It was brought to the police station, where a fire department Geiger counter was used to determine the item did not have a dangerous radioactive reading.  Government authorities were notified and police barricaded the area, awaiting arrival of officials from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington who took custody of the item.  The piece was flown to government labs at Los Alamos for testing, which confirmed it was part of Sputnik IV. 
   In the days following the event additional smaller pieces of debris were found in the area, including on the property of the nearby Lutheran Church, with several pieces recovered on the church annex roof. 
   These improbable events plunged Manitowoc into the Space Age and made international headlines.  It was voted The Top News Story of the year in Manitowoc for 1962.  The question as to just how to commemorate the event for posterity is something that has been struggled with for many years.  Immediately following the crash someone actually suggested changing the name of the city to Sputnik, Wisconsin.   One prescient alderman suggested observing September 5 each year as “Aero-Space Day” in Manitowoc.  Other Aldermen saw no reason to “pay tribute to a piece of aerial garbage made in Russia” or have anything to do with “anything communistic.” 
    We have to remember that these events took place during the height of the Cold War – the “Red Scare” was a very real thing to Americans in those days.  In fact, “Red Nightmare” – an anti-communist propaganda Armed Forces Information Film was shown on American television in 1962.  It is posted below, if you are interested - a little under a half-hour long and very "Twilight-Zone-esque." (Narrated by Jack Webb - of "Dragnet" fame - and watch for a brief appearance by Robert Conrad, who would later star in the popular sixties show "The Wild Wild West.")
    A brass ring was placed in the street in 1964 to mark the site of the impact and in 1987 a stone marker was placed in the curb between the sidewalk and the street.  See the brass ring and the stone marker up close – and be here and help us “pay tribute to a piece of aerial garbage made in Russia” – we promise it’s nothing "communistic."    See you on September 8! Planet Terry

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Schedule of Events for this year's Sputnikfest is now available!  The event kicks off at noon with non-stop wacky-tacky fun until midnight.  See the out-of-this-world line-up posted here - just one of which is the Cosmic Cake Contest, which allows Kitchen Cosmonauts to show off their confectionary creativity.  The 2011 top prize-winning cakes are shown here.  The cakes are judged at 1:00 - then put on display until 6:00 PM at which time they are auctioned off to the public!    

Near the bottom of the Schedule of events posted here, you will see a note about a shuttle running between Sputnikfest and Lobsterfest from 6:00 PM to Midnight.  The date chosen for Sputnikfest a few years back turned out to be the same day that the local Rotary Club has been doing their annual Lobsterfest fundraiser event.  The two events really haven't been in conflict with each other - many people do attend both functions and the "space shuttle" serves to facilitate that.

While the "Traditional Live Maine Lobster Dinner" is available by reservation only, "non-lobster" eating attendees can enjoy a hamburger or hot dog - and of course, a cold beverage.  If you are interested in combining a lobster dinner with your Sputnikfest pilgrimage, be aware that ticket sales for the lobster dinner end on September 3.  $40 gets you a whole live lobster - flown in fresh from Maine - with all the traditional trimmings. 

Just to prepare yourself for a combined Lobsterfest and Sputnikfest experience, you may consider watching the 1989 homage to 1950's B-movie sci-fi films: Lobster Man from Mars.  The plot of this decidedly campy outing, featuring Patrick McNee and Tony Curtis, is actually a swipe of the Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan classic "The Producers."  (and "The Producers" - incidentally - is on this year's roster for The Masquers!)

Posted here for your viewing "enjoyment" - the promotional trailer for "Lobster Man from Mars" -  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Manitowoc boasts the longest running community theater group in the State of Wisconsin – the Masquers.  The Masquers was founded in 1931 and has been showcasing great local talent in several productions per year since then.  The headquarters of the Masquers is referred to as “The Coach House” – for good reason.  Located right next door to the Rahr-West Art Museum, and only yards from “ground zero” for the impact site of the Sputnik fragment, the building once housed the horses and carriages for the mansion that is now the museum – back when it was a private residence.  Each year, the Masquers “re-enactment” of the Sputnik IV mission – short on historical accuracy but long on fun – is one of the highlights of Sputnikfest.  Rumor has it that the creative geniuses at Masquers are hard at work right now, rewriting parts of this perennial favorite to make it even more special for this year’s 50th anniversary celebration.  Below is a link to a YouTube video of a previous year’s presentation, to give you an idea of what you might see at this year’s event.   Planet Terry
Just about 30 miles south of Manitowoc, the City of Sheboygan also has unique ties to the space age – one of which is an interesting bit of historical trivia and the other being a very modern-day tie-in. 
Lets back up a bit to World War II to frame the story.  The V-2 rocket, built as a weapon by the Germans in World War II, was the first man-made object to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight - and was the grand-daddy of all modern rockets.  It was about 15 meters long, two meters in diameter and really scary for anyone living within its 200-mile range.  The V-2 traveled faster than sound, came down steeply, and hit its target without warning. 
By the spring of 1945 it was clear to Werner von Braun, one of the key scientists responsible for developing the V-2, that Germany was losing the war.  He made plans to surrender and take key members of his team, plans and equipment with him.  Given the devastation the V-2 had wrought on the Allied forces, and fearing the treatment he and his team might receive if they surrendered to the Russians or the French, he made up his mind to surrender only to American forces. 
On May 2, 1945 he sent his younger brother, Magnus von Braun out on a bicycle to find an American to surrender to.  Magnus approached a young Private named Fred Schneikert from Sheboygan, Wisconsin and told him that he represented Werner von Braun, inventor of the V-2 rocket – who was nearby and ready to surrender.  Private Schneikert did not believe Magnus and told him “I think you’re nuts” – but he did relay the message to his superiors, and sure enough, the surrender was arranged.  Private Schniekert was able to meet Werner von Braun after the surrender, and von Braun confided he was looking forward to continuing his rocket work in America.  Shniekert says “I told him I’d be back home before he ever saw America.  But I was wrong.”  Later in 1945, as part of a project code-named “Operation Paperclip”, Werner von Braun was among the German scientists who assisted America in developing its own rocket program. 
Today, Sheboygan is home of the only licensed spaceport in the Midwest – the Great Lakes Aerospace Science and Education Center (GLASEC).  What is a “spaceport”?  The website for GLASEC explains that a licensed spaceport is an area designated as having access to space.  Most of the United States is under restricted airspace – where flight is limited to 50,000 feet or less, for national security reasons.  The airspace over the Sheboygan Spaceport is “open” to space travel.  There are a few other licensed spaceports – in Florida, Texas, and California, for instance – but Sheboygan is the only one in the “interior” of the United States.  Planet Terry

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You say potato – I say potahto …  So, what is the proper pronunciation for the word “Sputnik” anyway?  Purists will tell you it is to be pronounced “Spootnik” with the long “oo” sound like “boot.”  That is the way it is pronounced in Russia – and since it was their deal, we probably should follow their lead.  But most people I hear will say “Sputnik” with the short “ut” sound – like “mutt.”  Here is a web-page with audio clips of the word pronounced by three different people.  The voice from the Czech Republic actually pronounces the word “Spootneek.”  The 1957 “rockabilly” song Sputnik (Satellite Girl) by Jerry Engler went with “Spootnik” while the Equadors sang "Sputnik" with more Americanized pronunciation in their 1958 Sputnik Dance song.  Whichever way you say it - be there in Manitowoc on September 8 for the celebration!  Planet Terry

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sputnik IV is the one that has caused all the fuss – it went up over there, and come down upon us!*
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik IV on May 15, 1960, as a test of life support systems for future manned spaceflights.  The spaceship contained a functional cabin that could, supposedly, have contained a real life cosmonaut, but instead contained a “dummy.”  Just in case the ship was recovered by someone not familiar with the mission parameters, we are told the dummy had the word “Maket” (Russian for “dummy”) printed on a sign under its faceplate.  After four days in orbit, on May 19, the ship was supposed to maneuver into a lower orbit for an eventual controlled descent and recovery.  Something went wrong and the ship moved into a higher orbit instead and became, in a very real sense, “lost in space.” 
On Wednesday, September 5, 1962 members of the Milwaukee Moonwatch satellite tracking team saw a “bright reddish-orange star-like thing” cross the sky from the northwest to the southeast at 4:49 AM.  At about 5:30 AM two Manitowoc policemen on routine patrol saw “something” in the middle of the 600 block of 8th Street.  Seeing that it was a hot chunk of metal embedded in the pavement, and assuming it to be a piece of scrap metal from a nearby foundry, they moved it to the curbside.  Later in the day they heard news accounts of the breakup of Sputnik IV and returned to collect the metal fragment, on the outside chance that it might be part of that satellite.  It was transferred to government authorities and analysis discovered a metric bolt thread not commonly in use in the U.S. at the time.  This circumstantial evidence was later bolstered by measurements of trace radioactive isotopes which proved the item had been in outer space. 
The Russian authorities initially denied the metal fragment had originated as part of their space program.  An attempt to return the object to the Soviet Ambassador on September 14, 1962 is recounted in the memoirs of U.S. Ambassador Francis Plimpton.  Ambassador Plimpton says his Soviet counterpart refused to accept the  Sputnik IV fragment when it was placed on a table in front of him, saying “I do not know to whom this piece of metal belongs …” and that “he looked at it as though it were a viper.”  A representative of the Soviet Union did take custody of the fragment on January 5, 1962, exactly four months after it landed in Manitowoc.  
This September’s Sputnikfest marks 50 years since Sputnik IV met its demise.  For most of that time, there has been only minimal acknowledgment of the event.  A brass ring was placed in the street at the impact site and a rather modest plaque was installed at the curbside where this artifact of the space race spent its first morning back on earth.  A cast replica of the satellite fragment has been on display at the Rahr-West Art Museum for many years. 
I remember seeing this when I was probably about 10 years old and being decidedly underwhelmed.  I expected to see a part of a “spaceship” – and though this metal fragment is that … I have to agree with the assessment of the two patrolmen who found it on that September 5 morning in 1962: it looks much more like a piece of foundry scrap than a satellite.  Looks can be deceiving.  This rather unattractive chunk of metal is a tangible link to mankind’s first tentative steps into the cosmos.  In reply to that Soviet Ambassador of so many years ago, I’d like to say “We do know to whom this piece of metal belongs.”  The piece of metal – and Sputnikfest – belongs to anyone with a love of history, a sense of adventure, and an appreciation for the way random events can impact our lives. 
With a whole big wide world where this thing could have crashed, and plenty of oceans where it could have splashed – what chance it would pick the Midwest to come down?  And not just the Midwest – it came down in our town!* 
Come celebrate the 50th anniversary of this historic event with us on September 8, 2012.  Planet Terry
(note: the source material for much of the historical information in this post is a paper by Charles A. Lindquist titled "A Sputnik IV Saga.")
* Sputnik: the Manitowoc Connection 
Way back in the 50’s when things were just swell – way back before digital, cable, and cell
with seams on our nylons and fins on our cars - we dreamed of the future and looked to the stars.
Then – one day in October 1957 - The Russians! They beat us up into the heavens!  And then, just to add to our Cold War type fears, TIME named some Russian guy Man of the Year!
One rocket for Russia, one big leap for man, that fateful “Red Monday” the Space Age began.  Sputnik I was the first, a big shiny chrome ball – but it wasn’t the last – there were ten Sputniks in all.
Sputnik II carried Laika, a cosmonaut pup.  Unfortunately though she survived the ride up and became the first space traveler of the 20th Century – Sputnik II and the doggy burned up on re-entry.
Sputnik III was cone-shaped with antennas and arms and an instrument payload (no critters were harmed).
Sputnik IV is the one that has caused all the fuss – ‘cause it went up over there and came down upon us!

It weighed five full tons – this big Russian tin can, - and instead of a dog, Sputnik IV held a man!  Well, not a real man in this Soviet rocket – the word “dummy” you see, spelled in Russian is “maket.”  It was a test run for a real live space man, would ride Sputnik next - (at least that was the plan).  As best-laid plans go (for both mice and for men) Sputnik IV had some problems and met a bad end.  Did the rocket misfire?  Was some part out of place?  Well, they had one more first – yes, the first “lost in space.”

For two years, thre months, and some twenty-odd days Sputnik IV stayed aloft – then came down in a blaze.  What goes up must come down, that’s a true now as then - the big problem  was no one knew where or when.  With a whole big wide world where this thing could have crashed and plenty of oceans where it could have splashed - what chance it would pick the Midwest to come down?  And not just the Midwest – it came down in our town!
While most of the Sputnik burned up from the heat, a twenty-pound chunk came down on 8th Street and embedded itself in a three-inch-deep hole.  Later, found by police officers out on patrol – it was studied and photographed “the news of the day” – and though it’s been part of a Rahr-West display, Manitowoc’s ties to the early space age have been kind of forgotten – no longer “front page.”
It’s time that this oversight just has to end.  Sputnikfest!   It’s coming!  Tell all your friends!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sputnik: Episode III – A New Hope
I remember seeing a trailer for Star Wars (the first movie) at the Strand Theater in Manitowoc in 1977 – and knowing just from that short clip that this was something completely unlike any "space movie" that had ever come before.  Each movie was eagerly awaited – Star Wars, the Empire Strikes Back, then Return of the Jedi.  (I also remember when the working title of that third installment was still “Revenge of the Jedi”).  Then – at some point we discovered that Star Wars I was actually Star Wars IV “A New Hope” going by the expanded storyline according to George Lucas.
I am probably stretching to make a connection here, but at some point after the Sputnik program, we found out that Sputnik III was actually supposed to be Sputnik I.  Intended to be a scientific exploration satellite designed to collect various types of geophysical data, it weighed almost one and a half tons.  Anxious to beat the US into orbit and not sure their rockets were ready to hoist such a heavy payload into orbit, the Russians put this heavier Sputnik on hold and opted instead to launch the 183 pound "lightweight" - Sputnik I.  The second Sputnik, the one which carried the ill-fated Laika into space was heavier – but at 1,120 pounds still much lighter than Sputnik III.
The 2,919 pound Sputnik III definitely raised the anxiety level in the US.  By successfully launching a payload this heavy into orbit the Russians demonstrated they had the capability of putting a seriously heavy warhead into orbit, if they chose to do so, and dropping it onto the United States.   Launched on May 15, 1958, Sputnik III remained in orbit for almost two years, disintegrating on re-entry into the atmosphere on April 6, 1960.
One little-known fact is that Sputnik III was actually an early prototype design for the evil Dalek cyborgs, which appeared just a few years later – in 1963 – in the long-running British science fiction series Dr. Who.
Okay, I just totally made that last part up.  But seriously … there is a family resemblance, is there not?  Planet Terry

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sputnikfest continues to gain recognition!  In 2010 Sputnikfest was named by Readers Digest as one of the top five Funky American Festivals.  This year, Sputnikfest goes INTERNATIONAL!  Here’s the scoop: All Over the Place is a children’s television program produced by the BBC.  The format is a combination of fun and education – from what I see of it, reminds me a little of some of the shows one might have seen on the Nickelodeon network.  The show’s producers travelled all over the UK during the first two seasons – filming events and locations as varied as the Air Guitar World Championships, a Bat Hospital on the Isle of Wight, and the world’s largest vacuum cleaner collection.  Well, for the third season (being filmed right now for broadcast in 2013) “All Over the Place” is leaping the “big pond” and filming unique locations in the U.S.  – including SPUTNIKFEST!   The organizers of Sputnikfest have been in discussions with the producers of All Over the Place for some time now and just this past week have received confirmation.  All Over the Place will indeed be filming at Sputnikfest 2012.  The cast of the show aren’t just passive observers of the events they showcase – they are very hands on!  As of this writing, it appears that members of the show’s cast will be participating in the Aluminum Foil Costume Contest!  So, if you needed just one more reason to make it to Sputnikfest 2012 – this should be it.  Be there to see a BBC film crew at work and participating in Sputnikfest events!  And you just might even find yourself featured on a BBC television program!  See you in Manitowoc September 8 – Planet Terry.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!  If you check your Google logo today (they call this the Google "Doodle") it is done up in red, white & blue/stars & stripes with the text "This Land Was Made for You and Me" - the folk song written by Woodie Guthrie in 1940 - that most of us probably learned and sang in gradeschool chorus.  Google does have fun with their logo, altering the text slightly to honor a wide variety of holidays, special occasions and historical figures.  In October of 2007 they caught a little bit of heat from some corners for commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the launch of Sputnik I, by replacing the second "g" in Google with a depiction of the Soviet satellite.  A few days after the doodle appeared, the Los Angeles Times noted that the move was "blasted by some conservatives" who found it "galling" that Google honored "an achievement by a totalitarian regime that was our Cold War enemy."  Really, people?  Really?  Well, we hope to see everyone at Sputnikfest this year - conservatives, liberals, independents, agnostics, atheists, all races and creeds - even aliens are welcome.  Sputnikfest truly is an event "made for you and me."  See you in Manitowoc September 8, 2012.  Planet Terry

Sunday, July 1, 2012

In Space, No One Can Hear You Bark
Sputnik II was launched on November 2, 1957, just a little more than a year after Sputnik I made history.   The second satellite launched by the Russians again made history, being the first time that a living creature was launched into orbit – a dog, named Laika.  Laika did survive the trip into orbit, but lived only a few hours after that.  See previous blog post below titled “Laika Was a Girl” for more on this.  I wish I could take credit for the twist on the Alien reference used in the opening here – but I can’t.  I found it on an interesting website dedicated to a theatrical presentation “Devised & Performed by Niki McCretton.”  
The one-woman play tells the story of “Muttnik: The First Dog in Space.” 
“Muttnik is a stray. She lives on the streets of Moscow, cold and hungry, until one day she is captured. To her surprise, she finds herself in a shiny new home with food, water and adventures better than dreams. She is living at the Russian Space Centre and has been selected to be the first dog in space! She learns to fly a rocket, to parachute-jump, to dance in zero gravity and ... To Boldly Go Where No Dog Has Gone Before!" 
Fun stuff.  Here is a link to the Muttnik website – and here is a link to a YouTube video of the play.   Planet Terry

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The space debris that fell to Earth in Manitowoc, Wisconsin fifty years ago this month was from Sputnik IV.  There were three Sputnik's before this one - and many after.  Over the next few weeks we will take a brief look at the first four Sputniks. 

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite in history from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.  The lauch took place on a Monday - the day being dubbed "Red Monday" in the popular press - and is generally accepted to mark the beginning of the Space Age.

Sputnik I was more than twice the size of a basketball, a silvery sphere, polished to a high sheen to aid in telescope tracking.  This is the shiny ball with four trailing antennas design that most of us will think of when we hear the word "Sputnik."  This iconic design is incorporated into the Sputnikfest logo and has been memorialized on one of Tina Kugler's popular annual Sputnikfest posters.

In a world in the grip of the cold war, during a time when the Soviet Union and the United States stared each other down with the implied threat of mutual mass destruction, Sputnik altered the nature and scope of the cold war.  Sputnik I contained two radio transmitters, which sent back the “beep-beep-beep” heard round the world.   Click here for a short podcast from NASA featuring audio of the "Beep Heard 'Round the World."

Sputnik I remained in orbit just three months.  Its orbit decayed and it burned up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere on January 4, 1958.  Planet Terry

Sunday, June 17, 2012

While mysterious things have been seen in the skies throughout history, the modern-day UFO craze can be traced to 1947 and the well-known incident at Roswell, New Mexico.  The term “flying saucer” was coined in 1947 in relation to that wave of sightings.  The term “UFO” was first used during 1952, a year that saw another wave of  sightings. UFO sightings seem to be cyclical in nature and with so many people looking skyward during the Sputnik years, the increase in UFO sightings may have been inevitable.  True Believers were convinced the increase in sightings meant the flying saucer occupants were taking note of mankind’s first tentative steps into the cosmos.  One of the more sought-after souivenirs at each year's Sputnikfest are the inflatable Sputnikfest Aliens available for purchase in various colors.  So - for those of you who "Want To Believe" - continue to watch the skies - or, better yet - join us at Sputnikfest this year and just take a look around.  You never know what you might see.  Planet Terry

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sputnikfest - It's Like Crazy, Man! 
Sputnik 1 went into orbit one month after the publication of On the Road, Jack Kerouac’s stream-of-consciousness autobiographical novel that defined the post-war Beat Generation. Within six months of the launch, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen came up with what has been called one of the most successful “intentionally coined” slang terms in the English language – “beatnik.”  The term described an anti-materialistic literary movement characterized by men with goatees, wearing loose-fitting hooped t-shirts, berets, and sunglasses, who played bongos and recited poetry (these were the "hip cats") – and women who wore black leotards and wore their hair straight and long (the "cool chicks").  The movement struck a chord in a post-Sputnik America suffering the humiliation of losing the first round of the Space Race to the Soviet Union.  This is an open call to all you hip cats and cool chicks to share one "crazy" event with us in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  See you at Sputnikfest - September 8, 2012!  Planet Terry

Friday, June 1, 2012

You may remember the scene from the movie “Signs” where the characters put on aluminum foil hats so the aliens can’t read their minds.  Aluminum foil hats have long been associated with paranoid conspiracy theorists – worn, supposedly, to block signals from outer space or government mind-control rays.  The effectiveness of an aluminum foil hat in blocking certain types of radio signals has actually been studied by some engineering students at MIT, who found their utility to be a bit questionable.  In fact, the study concluded that an aluminum foil hat may actually amplify certain frequencies!  If you are really serious about blocking those mind control rays – why stop at just a hat?  Why not a complete aluminum foil suit?  You can perfect your aluminum foil wardrobe and compete with others for prizes at the annual Sputnikfest Aluminum Foil Costume Contest!  So many of the activities at Sputnikfest are completely free – and this is one of them.  All you have to do is show up and register!  When you register, you get: 10 yards of aluminum foil, some colored tape, a few Sputnikfest decals, and a coat hanger.  Using only those materials, you fashion your most creative aluminum foil costume.  Judging takes place three hours after registration opens – so the sooner you register and get your materials, the more time you have to work on your costume.  Pictured on the right is one creative contestant from a previous Sputnikfest.  So – put your thinking caps on (foil, of course) and start thinking of what you could create with thirty feet of aluminum foil.  You could win valuable prizes – while blocking government mind-control rays at the same time!  See you on September 8.  Planet Terry

Saturday, May 26, 2012

So I was reading the Wall Street Journal this past week (no, can't say I am a subscriber - this was a copy I picked up in the waiting room of a local financial institution) and I saw a full-page full-color advertisement for a watch.  The theme of the ad was 1962 - 2012 - the 50th anniversary of the first watch in space!  The Navitimer Cosmonaute was on Scott Carpenter's wrist when he orbited the earth three times in the Aurora 7 space capsule in 1962.  Here is a link to the website for the Swiss watch maker Breitling, promoting a limited edition reproduction of that watch.  Check out the interesting video with some neat space program footage from 1962.  I did a little searching to try to see how much one of these watches might set you back, but the price doesn't seem to be plainly listed anywhere.  I suspect this is one of those items where "if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it."  One clue might be the fact that the original vintage Navitimer Cosmonaute watches, when they do come up on eBay, sell for between 3 and 4 thousand dollars.  I find the name of the watch interesting.  The United States had "astronauts" - from the Greek words "astron" (star) and "nautes" (sailor), meaning "star sailor."  The Russians had "cosomonauts" - from the Greek words "kosmos" (universe) and "nautes."  1962 was the height of the space race.  This watch was made by the a Swiss company and adopted for use by NASA, but why would the Swiss not have called the watch the "Navitimer Astronaute"?  Were they subtly signalling who they thought was leading in the race at the time?  1962 is also the 50th anniversary of the piece of space debris from Sputnik IV making landfall in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  The celebration - Sputnifest 2012 - starts at 12 noon on September 8.  I don't think I'll be buying a Navitimer Cosmonaute to check the time - my $19.99 ShopKo special will do just fine, thank you.  Planet Terry

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Five years ago, or so – during the time leading up to the first Sputnikfest, I spent some time shopping on eBay and bought some vintage items related to the Russian space program.  The items were nothing terribly valuable, but were interesting – some books and a filmstrip with images of Russian space ships cosmonauts.  But the neat thing about the purchases was that I bought them from a guy in Moscow.  We struck up a short email dialog after the sale and I discovered he was about my age.  I asked him if he had any particular recollections of the early days of the Soviet space program and he told me “no” he really didn’t.  He told me he was pretty young at the time and in addition, most of what was disclosed to the Russian public was heavily controlled by the government.  He said most of what he knew about those days were things he learned many years later.  I commented about how when I was a little kid I remember being afraid of the Russians – they were these “scary people” somewhere over the horizon that were held out as almost a type of “bogeyman.”  He told me that when he was a kid he was told that the Americans were scary – and stupid – and all the more dangerous because they were so stupid.  (I thought that was rather harsh)  And here we were, these two “children of the Cold War” all these many years later engaging in internet commerce.  With the end of the shuttle program, America’s space program seems to be the equivalent of a car “up on blocks”  and we find ourselves hitching a ride with our old Space Race Rivals to get into orbit.  This past week, on May 14, a U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts launched into space aboard a Soyuz spacecraft – heading up for a visit to the International Space Station.  Here is a link to a Yahoo News slideshow about the mission, which blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan – the same place the Sputnik missions launched from.  By the way, right now on eBay you can buy a Baikonur Cosmodrome cloth patch, supposedly from a Russian military uniform, and it will be shipped to you directly from the Soviet Union - $10.97 plus shipping.  We have come a long way, haven’t we?  Planet Terry

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sputnikfest Space Pods!  As noted previously, Sputnikfest is a free event.  You don't buy a ticket to get in and most of the contests and activities don't cost a cent.  You pay for food and drink, of course - and there is always a variety of Sputnikfest related merchandise availabe for purchase.  Still, Sputnikfest is a fundraiser for the children's art programs at the Rahr West Art Museum - and there are various fun opportunities to contribute to that worthy effort.  Sputnikfest will be doing something new, this year - a "Space Pod Raffle."  You are probably familiar with the sort of fundraiser where there are various prize baskets lined up with a bucket in front of each.  You buy tickets for the raffle and drop your tickets in the bucket in front of the prize basket you hope to win.  The Sputnikfest committee decided to add a similar raffle to Sputnikfest this year, but felt a plain old prize basket was just too mundane for an event like Sputnikfest.  Sputnikfest shouldn't have baskets ... Sputnikfest should have Space Pods!  One volunteer committee member crafted a unique Space Pod out of plastic buckets - a photo of the prototype is above, in orbit, with the "pod bay doors" open, ready to be filled with goodies.  Appropriately, one of the buckets that makes up the Space Pod is a Cedar Crest Ice Cream pail.  The Cedar Crest Ice Cream mascot in Manitowoc is the large cow that was decked out in Sputnikfest garb for prior Sputnifest events.  Watch for more info on the activities slated for this year's Sputnikfest in future posts.  Planet Terry

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maurice Sendak died yesterday in Danbury, Connecticut from complications of a stroke.  The New York Times called him "the most important children's book artist of the 20th Century."  I have always had a soft spot for children's books and enjoyed reading them to my kids when they were little.  Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are" is one of the books that I read aloud to them so many times that to this day I can recite most of it by heart.  On reaching the last page I was nearly always called upon to do an encore performance: "Read it again, Daddy!"  The story is relatively simple, but the illustrations are captivating and the themes in the story go much deeper than what is seen on the surface.  Putting on a "wolf suit" and rebelling against your parents, striking out on your own to experience the Great Adventure of life - and the inevitable longing for what one has left behind.  What does this have to do with Sputnikfest?  Not much, maybe.  But the same kid in me that is drawn to children's books also enjoys the spectacle of an event like Sputnikfest.  Come join us in Manitowoc this September 8 and bring your wolf suit.  We'll make mischief of one kind and another.  "Let the Wild Rumpus Start!"  Planet Terry

Friday, May 4, 2012

Laika Was A Girl - Click here for a link to a PowerPoint presentation hosted on Slideshare.  This presentation was created as a promotional item for the first Sputnikfest five years ago and was intended to be reasonably historically accurate.  At least one innaccuracy is now recognized, however.  The presentation has some information about Laika, the Russian cosmonaut dog (and distant canine ancestor to Tina Kugler's Spotnik) - and in one slide Laika is refered to as a "he."  Brave little Laika, as it turns out, was of the female doggy persuasion.  Laika (which means "Barker" in Russian) was a female part Samoyed terrier - a stray picked up on the streets of Moscow, so the story goes.  The goal of the mission was to prove that organisms from Earth could live in outer space.  The ship gained the nickname “Muttnik” in the popular press. The pressurized cabin was padded and provided Laika with enough room to lie down or stand.  Laika was fitted with a bag to collect waste (a female dog was intentionally chosen because she wouldn’t have to raise her leg to go to the bathroom) and electrodes to monitor her vital signs. The mission was to last ten days with food dispensed automatically.  As there was no plan for her return to earth, Laika’s final meal contained poison to euthanize her.  Following the mission, the Soviets initially claimed Laika had survived the full ten day mission.  Laika’s actual fate came to light years later.  As a result of a malfunction in the thermal control system and some loose insulation, the interior temperature of the capsule quickly reached 104 °Fahrenheit.  Initial data from the capsule showed Laika had survived the trip into orbit, but it is believed she survived for only a few hours after achieving orbit.  Sputnik II re-entered Earth's atmosphere on April 14, 1958.  Planet Terry 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Alien Drop!  When you attend this year's Sputnikfest be sure to buy your tickets for the Alien Drop.  Or, more precisely - be sure to buy your Aliens for the Alien Drop - a fundraiser conducted during Sputnikfest, with the funds going to support the Rahr West Art Museum's children's art programs.  Little rubber alien shaped erasers are sold for $5 each or three for $10.  Each little alien has a paper band around its cute little alien waist with a unique number on it.  Everyone who purchases an alien for the Alien Drop receives a ticket with a number matching that on their alien.  Then, at pre-determined times throughout the event (currently there are two drops planned, 3PM and 9PM) all the alien erasers that have been purchased are placed in a big bucket and given over to the custody of “Manitowoc’s Finest” - who are there with a Manitowoc Fire Department Ladder Truck.  The bucket is taken to the top of the extended ladder of the truck - which is parked on N. 8th Street in front of the museum.  After an appropriately dramatic countdown, the bucket full of aliens is dumped from the top of the ladder bucket right over the brass ring in the street, which marks the exact spot where the Sputnik IV debris landed.  Spectators wait breathlessly while Sputnikfest officials retreive the alien which has landed closest to the center of the brass ring.  The lucky purchaser of that alien wins half of the money collected for that Alien Drop.  But the fun isn't over!  After the winning alien is retrieved, all the remaining aliens are fair game for kids of all ages - who rush in and retrieve as many aliens as they can get their alien-pickin' hands on!

Rebel Without a Cause, The Griffith Observatory, and Sputnikfest.  What do those three things have in common?  If you haven't seen Rebel Without a Cause - the 1955 teen angst  film starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo - give it a try.  It is a fifties retro classic that you really have to see at least once.  Given the film's release right after James Dean's death, it is eerie to hear him (in the character of Jim Stark) say the line "I don't know what to do any more, except maybe die."  There is another line in the movie where Jim Stark/James Dean looks up at the stars in the Griffith Park Observatory Planetarium (where several key scenes in the movie take place) and says "Once you've been up there, you know you've been someplace."  The Griffith Observatory publishes a full-color glossy magazine with the title "The Griffith Observer."  The April 2012 edition of the magazine features an article on Sputnikfest by Manitowoc native Sherry Dewane.  According to what I find about her on the web, Sherry is currently the Vice President of FOTO (the Friends Of The Observatory).  Sherry notes that in 1962 she was "quite young" and has "no recollection" of the actual Sputnik crash, but she is quite obviously pleased by the way her old home town is honoring this event.  Sherry notes in her article that "Anything in Wisconsin with 'fest' in the name" means bratwurst and "enough beer to launch a satellite."  Oh, Sherry - you do know us well, don't you?  Sherry says she doesn't know of any other space-debris festivals.  That's right.  Sputnikfest is one-of-a kind.  There is nothing else on earth like it - and, as Jim Stark would say "Once you've been there, you'll know you've been someplace."  Till next time - Planet Terry

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

It's Coming! September 8, 2012!
Sputnikfest!  Wacky-Tacky Fun!  FREE Wacky Tacky Fun, for the whole family.  If you have been to one of the previous annual Sputnikfest celebrations, you KNOW how what a unique, fun, and absolutely cool event this is.  You may even know a bit of the history of the event.  For those of you have yet to be initiated into the select group of Sputnikfest Alumni - or who don't know the history of this event - keep checking this blog over the next several months between now and September 28, 2012.  A dedicated group of volunteers is working hard to make sure that the 2012 edition of Sputnikfest is bigger, better, wackier, and tackier than ever.  2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the day the Cold War hit home in the Heartland of America.  On September 5, 1962 Russia's Sputnik IV burned up on re-entry into the atmosphere and a 20-pound piece landed right smack dab in the middle of the street - almost exactly on the centerline - in front of what is now the Rahr-West Art Museum in Manitowoc Wisconsin.  Though the event was of obvious historical significance, it was largely ignored by the community for many years, in part because ... in the years following the Cold War, who really wanted to celebrate the Russians bombing us with a piece of space junk?  Check back for updates on the 2012 Sputnikfest event, history, trivia and lots more FUN Sputnikety stuff!  Planet Terry