Happy Birthday Vanguard 1, and Welcome Home?

Jim Oberg has written a very interesting article at MSNBC.com, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the launch of mankind’s fourth artificial satellite, Vanguard 1. While it is no longer functioning or communicating, it is the oldest satellite still in orbit. Jim says, “Vanguard 1 was the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells, and its small suite of instruments provided unprecedented information on Earth’s size and shape, air density and temperature ranges, and the micrometeorite density in space. Tracking its orbit helped geophysicists realize that Earth is not round but slightly pear-shaped, with a slight, symmetric equatorial bulge.”

Jim has a lot of good history included in the article, but most intriguing, Jim reports Vanguard 1 could become the first satellite brought home, for museum display, by a new generation of robotic space vehicles. That would be incredible! Such an attempt would be a demonstration of robotic space vehicles’ capabilty, in addition to providing an Earth orbit (and highly exciting) version of retrieving Gus Grissom’s Liberty Bell 7 from the ocean floor. Do check out Jim’s article.

Jim Oberg, of course, is a noted journalist, author, linguist (sorry, inside joke) and space consultant for NBC News.

4 Replies to “Happy Birthday Vanguard 1, and Welcome Home?”

  1. It’d be good to see the thing back home. I wonder if they’ll do a full studdy of it & its systems (I know they don’t work) to see how well they’ve stood up to being up in orbit for so long.

  2. The article mentions robotic vehicles as possible ways to retrieve Vanguard I. wouldn’t it be possible for the shuttle to retrieve it?

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