Sputnikfest 2014


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

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