Sputnikfest 2014


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

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek “Into Darkness” was released this past week.  I did a search for Sputnik references in the
Star Trek universe and was surprised by how few I was able to find.  There is a passing reference in the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series to a “Korolev Class” starship designation.  Though the ship itself is never seen on-screen, a schematic appears on a display screen in one episode.  Sergei Pavlovich Korolev was the lead Soviet rocket engineer and spacecraft designer during the Sputnik program. 
In the Star Trek: Enterprise television series, there is a flashback story about a Vulcan ship
observing the launch of Sputnik I.  In the episode Carbon Creek, this Vulcan ship subsequently crash lands in Pennsylvania and the three survivors are forced to blend in with the local populace in order to survive.  One neat bit of dialog has the Vulcans discussing what Earth culture of 1957 has to offer, including “alcohol, frozen fish sticks, and the constant threat of nuclear annihilation.”

The lead-in video for the Star Trek: Enterprise TV series theme song Faith of the Heart/Where My Heart Will Take Me plays over a video montage representing the history of exploration and space flight.  It includes images of the Wright Brothers, the Charles Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis, and the Apollo space program, but any reference to the Russians being first in space is conspicuously absent.
One Star Trek fan has made an attempt to correct this oversight by splicing footage of Sputnik I and Yuri Gagarin into the Star Trek Enterprise theme video.  Check the video below.  About 30 seconds in you will see the “UPN” mark in the lower right corner of the screen disappear for about 10 seconds – which is about the only clue that this footage has been edited in.  The added video meshes seamlessly with the rest of the footage and one wonders why the creators of the original series would not have included something like this.   
Sputnikfest 2013 is less than 4 months away!  See you then.  Planet Terry

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The One.  The Only.  Sputnikfest.
Space Debris Basics: The Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS) defines Space Debris as “material that is in orbit as the result of space missions, but is no longer serving any function.” 
There are others who have claimed to have recovered Sputnik satellite debris.  In the Spring of 1962 a shepherd claimed to have recovered Sputnik debris in the Scottish Highlands.  What he found was later identified as part of a “Moby Dick” - a high altitude spy balloon launched by the US to photograph sensitive sites in the Soviet Union. 
Bob Morgan says parts of Sputnik I fell into his father’s backyard in Encino, California on the morning of December 8, 1957.  The thirteen pieces of metal and plastic (“okay, seriously … plastic?”) were said to be “glowing so bright that you couldn’t look at it with your naked eye” – so they
“grabbed some sunglasses* until this thing had cooled down” then gathered up the pieces and stored them in a box for almost 50 years.  The experts are skeptical that the artifacts are actually part of Sputnik I, but according to a 2007 article in the New York Times – there is a chance that they could be part of one of the booster rockets used to put Sputnik I into orbit.

According to CORDS, in the last 50 years more than 5,400 metric tons of orbital debris have survived re-entry.  One person has actually been struck by a piece!  Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma was hit by what was confirmed to be a piece of a Delta rocket.  Fortunately it was a relatively small piece, not traveling very fast, and she was not harmed.  
CORDS has compiled a list of 68 verified occurrences of “Recovered Reentry Debris” from 1960 to
present day.  In May of 1963 a piece of debris “believed to be part of a Soviet spacecraft” was recovered 200 km North of Pretoria, South Africa.  (note the qualifier “believed to be” used in the list entry)   Similarly, in 1964 an “undetermined number of fragments … believed to be of Soviet origin” fell to earth in British Columbia, Canada. 

Most of the entries on the list that could be linked to Russian spacecraft are noted in terms of “believed to be of Soviet origin” – but are not confirmed as same.  But what is it about Wisconsin that it seems to be a magnet for this stuff?  Item #24 on the list is a titanium spherical pressure vessel identified as Soviet in origin found near Tomahawk, Wisconsin in October, 1966.
Only one entry on the list of 68 pieces of “recovered reentry debris” has been conclusively linked to a specific Soviet satellite:
In September 1962 a cylindrical metal piece (diameter 0.15 m, mass 9.5 kg) fell on a street intersection in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Identified as part of Soviet Sputnik IV, launched May 15, 1960

The One.  The Only.  Come celebrate with us on September 7.  Planet Terry

*The "sunglasses" image I used in this post is from the 1988 John Carpenter science fiction film "They Live."  The photo shows Roddy Piper wearing a pair of "special" sunglasses that are integral to the plot of the movie.  If you aren't familiar with the film - check it out.  It's a fun homage to the 1950's alien invasion genre - and worth watching, in my opinion, for the line supposedly ad-libbed by Roddy Piper (aka wrestling star "Rowdy Roddy Piper") - "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a** ... and I'm all out of bubblegum."  Here is a link to the trailer.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In the last post I made note of Superman’s 75th Anniversary.  You may have heard news reports this past week about the 75th anniversary of another iconic character: Bugs Bunny.  The exact birthday of this “wascally wabbit” could be debated.  The anniversary most recently being celebrated marks 75 years since his first appearance as a rabbit being hunted by Porky Pig in “Porky’s Hare Hunt.”  Though he has some of the Bugs Bunny personality in that cartoon short (see image at right) he looks quite a bit different than the Bugs we know today.  Bug’s first recognizable appearance is in A Wild Hare in 1940 and he was first named on-screen as “Bugs Bunny” in Elmer’s Pet Rabbit in 1941. 
There is a Sputnik connection to the Bugs Bunny story, relating to a story featuring everyone’s favorite cartoon alien – Marvin the Martian.  Hareway to the Stars was released on March 29, 1958, only about 5 months after the Russians launched Sputnik I.  If you watch the video, check about 1:55 into it to see Bugs Bunny hit by an a recognizable cartoon representation of Sputnik I, complete with its distinctive “Beep-Beep-Beep” radio signal. 
This, and many other Bugs Bunny cartoon shorts are notable for the mid-century modern design elements incorporated into them, a topic explored on this interesting website.
There is a also a mid-century Sputnik connection to the Manitowoc story, where Sputnik 4 fell to earth in 1962.  Come visit Manitowoc, Wisconsin this September 7th and celebrate the anniversary of that event with us.  That’s it for this week.  Or – rather … “That’s All Folks.”  Planet Terry