Sputnikfest 2014


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

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father’s Day
As with most of mankind’s great achievements, many people played a role in Sputnik’s success, but Sergei Korolev has often been referred to as the “Father” of the Sputnik project.    
Sergei Korolev was a licensed pilot and an aircraft designer who excelled in the skills of design integration, organization and strategic planning.  He was the man behind the scenes responsible for much of the success of the Soviet space program. 

During Stalin's 1938 Great Purge, he was accused of plotting against the government and imprisoned in a Siberian gulag – a labor camp prison from which 30 percent of those imprisoned did not survive.  Korolev survived, but lost all of his teeth, suffered a broken jaw, and developed a heart condition. Eventually, he was moved from the manual labor camp to a special slave-labor camp where scientists and engineers worked on projects assigned by the communist party leadership.  Later he was discharged by special government decree and his prior convictions were dismissed.
Along with other experts, he worked to reverse engineer the German V-2 rocket technology after WWII.  His contributions to that effort led to the successful R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile, the workhorse of the Soviet space program.  Korolev played an active role in the Soviet space effort from the early days, right up through the manned program.
In his memoirs, Nikita Khrushchev’s son recalled how his father learned about the successful launch of Sputnik I.  The Soviet leader was having a late reception at the Mariinsky Palace, in Kiev, Ukraine, when an aide called him to the telephone.  Khrushchev reappeared minutes later, "with his face shining":
I can tell you some very pleasant and important news, Khrushchev said, Korolev just called (at this point he acquired a secretive look). He's one of our missile designers. Remember not to mention his name - it's classified. So, Korolev has just reported that today, a little while ago, an artificial satellite of the Earth was launched." Father looked triumphantly around at those present. Everyone smiled politely,
without understanding just what had happened."

Sergei Korolev died January 14, 1966 at the age of 59, of complications from ailments contracted during his incarceration at the gulag prison camp. 
Before his death he referred to publicly only as "Chief Designer" and his actual identity was kept secret.  This was partly because in the Soviet system all successes were to be seen as a product of a committee, rather than the contributions of any one man, and partly because the Soviets feared an attempt on his life by the CIA if his identity were revealed.  American intelligence did not learn his identity until about a year before he died – and his identity was not revealed publicly in the Soviet Union until after his death.
And Then We Have "Father Sputnik"
While researching this post I found a reference to a rather intriguing painting by California surrealist artist William Stoneham, titled "Father Sputnik, 2010" - here is a link to a website featuring some of his work.  Check the Sputnik logo on the car's hood - and the Sputniks falling from the sky and piled up in the background. 

Happy Father's Day - and see you for Sputnikfest on September 7, 2013!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

“Back In The Day” – Sputnik Was Scary Stuff. 
The Russians were Scary People – and they were “Up There” first.  Before us.  Not much good could come of that, from the viewpoint of the average American in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. 
This week I’ll share something with you from my own personal Sputnik memorabilia collection – and ask you to share with me any information you might have about this item or the author.  I picked this up off of eBay a couple years back.  I think I paid twenty-something for it.  Current offerings online for similar items indicate that you’d have to pay $45 to $50 to buy one of these today.
This little booklet measures about 5 3/16” by 4” and is 26 pages (numbered pages, there is a blank page at the end) long.  It was published in 1960 and written in the voice of a fictional 2nd Grade Student named “Junior Bottumburger.”  The actual author, named in the book, is “F. Peter Seidel.”   
The person I bought this from said that from what they knew of the item, it was something that was handed out at “Christian revival meetings” during the Cold War by a traveling preacher who capitalized on the Sputnik scare with an “end of the world” message. 
The content of the booklet does appear to be consistent with that.  Little Junior Bottumberger tells a cautionary tale, with calculated misspellings intended to make  you believe it is written by a second grade student.  Either Junior or Mr. Seidel appear to be more than a little misogynistic when the story tells how after God made man “HIS 1ST MISTAK” he then made woman “HIS WURST MISTAK” because “SHE WUS NO GOOD.”    
The story progresses and explains how this flawed man and woman made “FIRE” and the
“WEEL” and later a long list of items including STEAM ENGINES, MARSHMELOWS, MUSTARD GAS, POEMS, RELIGIONS, ATOM BOMS, STINK BOMS, LIPSTIC, ELECTRIC CANOPNER … and “SPUTNIK.”  Then, “MOR SPUTNIKS” which lead to a race to see “HU CUD MAK THE MOST” and the “BIGIST” Sputnik.  Which ultimately led to the end of the world – and the last page of the book … “GOODBY.” 
I’ve done some limited internet research on the author’s name …
(okay, I googled it) and I find an architect/environmentalist named Peter Seidel, born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1926 – who sounds to be a pretty good candidate to have been the author.  According to Wikipedia (boy, I hate it when my students say that in a paper) he has also written works with titles like “Why We Ignore the Damage We Inflict on the Planet and Ourselves” and “Is it Inevitable that Evolution Will Self-Destruct?”
I see nothing indicating he may have been a revivalist preacher in the mode of “Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show” (pack up the babies & grab the old ladies) - but I wouldn’t think it entirely unbelievable if someone told me that his little tome ended up in the hands of someone who did use it that way. 
Anyone out there have any solid information on the history of this little booklet?  Any information would be greatly appreciated – please email me at spuntnikfest@gmail.com   
And be sure to join us at Sputnikfest 2013.  No scary stuff.  No preaching.  Just lots of wacky tacky fun.  See you on September 7 in Manitowoc.   Planet Terry