Sputnikfest 2014


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

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