"“We have lent a huge amount of money to the U.S. Of course we are concerned about the safety of our assets. To be honest, I am definitely a little worried.” "

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao 12th March 2009

""We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we'd like to do our best to preserve that system."

Timothy Geithner US Secretary of the Treasury, previously President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.1/3/2009

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sputnik - memories of 50 years ago

Lord Patel played a remarkable bt very small part in the launch of the Sputnik 50 years ago. A cloak of silence however conceals the identity of the slim, agile schoolboy who was inserted through the window of the staff room of Altrincham Grammar School Master's Staff Room to extract the school's Grundig TK 5 (TK 24 ?) portable 5 1/2" reel to reel tape recorder (valve driven and weighed about 30 lbs). (one for sale on e-Bay)

It was with this machine that Reg Lascelles , ex President of Manchester University Student's Union , execrable teacher of French, enthusiastic ham radio operator , and all round good egg - who became shortly after, the Press Relations Officer at Bernard (later Sir) Lovell's shiny new Jodrell Bank Radio telescope, recorded the Sputnik signal.

In Reg's back bedroom the faltering signal which kept disappearing as the satellite revolved round the earth was recorded - the Russians has sensibly chosen a common frequency (20 and 40 MHz if memory serves) to ensure the signal could be found but it was difficult to pick up because it was a crowded band.

Once recorded , excited recordist and Reg set off for the BBC in Piccadilly Gardens Manchester, in his battered black Morris 10 and it was this signal that the BBC used to broadc ast to the UK and which much of the world first heard. Presumably the military didn't know what to do and wouldn't release information or recordings.

It was remarkable how soon jokes circulated .. " Did you hear that when the sputnik passes over a virgin it beeps .. have you heard it ?"

Which years later it became apparent, was merely a variant on the ... , Q. "Why don't the Liver Birds flap their wings"... A. "They do, but only when a virgin passes underneath"

Exciting times - the first satellite the yanquis launched (third time lucky on the launch) discovered the Van Allen radiation belts, still probably the most important discovery in space made by satellites. Van Allen was responsible for the lift packages and the German V2 rocket scientist Werner von Braun (and SS officer)expropriated by the US under "Operation Paperclip" at the end of the war saw to the building of the rockets. Ernst Steinhoff was another of that group and his brother later developed the first submarine fired missiles.More here

Reg went on to identify the signals from Luna 9 the soviet moon package as being that of the standard for facsimile transmission used by newspapers and because of this Jodrell Bank scooped the world with the first photographs (pic) ever published of the moon surface. The pictures from Luna 9 were received on 4 February 1966 at 1530-1655 UT and Reg had borrowed a facsimile receiver from the Daily Express in Manchester - due to misunderstanding of some sort the apect ratio was 2.5 not 2.0 and the Russian Academy of Sciences got the huff because the pictures used were wrongly dimensioned - in reality they had been upstaged and didn't like it.

Anyway nobody had ever seen the moon's surface before so no-one was to know.

Here is a strong signal (.WAV) from Sputnik 1 recorded in the US by Radio Ham Roy Welch of Dallas, here is another less distinct which sounds a bit more authentic.

Intersting Video here of the impact of the Sputnik in Australia with unique news fillum.

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