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10/31/2002

Beep-Beep

This week the Russians launched a spacecraft carrying three
cosmonauts (one a Belgian) headed for the International Space
Station. This month marks the 45th anniversary of another space
shot from the same Baikonur launch site. On October 4, 1957,
however, it was not Russia, but the Soviet Union that launched
an aluminum alloy sphere only about two feet in diameter, not
too much bigger than a basketball. Before Brian Trumbore
embarked on his current Western trip, he gave me a book about
that 1957 launch titled "Sputnik: the shock of the century" by
Paul Dickson.

At first I thought, "Come on, what about the atom bomb, DNA or
a host of other things?" Surely, that small beeping ball doesn''t
rate top billing for shock value. However, reading the book
brought back my own memories of that day in 1957 when
Sputnik burst upon the scene and of the combination of awe,
fear, admiration and consternation it inspired. I agree with a
quote in the book of the physicist Lloyd Berkner. He predicted
that when 2100 AD rolls around, the year 1957 will stand out as
the year man progressed from a two-dimensional to a three-
dimensional geography.

On October 4, 1957 I was one month shy of marking my fifth
anniversary at Bell Labs. Five years earlier, in November of
1952, we stayed an extra day in Cleveland before driving to New
Jersey to start my new job. The extra day allowed me to cast the
first vote of my life, the first of two votes I would cast for
Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was president on that fateful day when,
for the first time in history, man had thrown something into the
air that didn''t come down. Well, it did come down, but 162 days
later. For 21 of those days, the 184 pound Sputnik containing
only a radio transmitter and batteries to power it, sent out a
"beep-beep-beep" in the key of A-flat for all to hear as it passed
overhead. Although technologically unsophisticated by today''s
standards, Sputnik had an impact that, like 9/11, told us the
world would never be the same.

I recall that in those days it was common to joke that the
Russians were claiming to have invented all kinds of things that
we knew, or thought we knew, someone else had invented. I
remember standing out on the lawn with our neighbors in our
garden apartment complex looking skyward to get a glimpse of
Sputnik as it orbited overhead. After the initial shock of seeing
and hearing Sputnik, the realization set in that this time these
Soviets had indeed invented something. Furthermore, that
something was put in orbit by a rocket system that could just as
well place a nuclear-tipped missile on New York or anywhere
the Soviets desired. The fear was palpable. I knew one Bell
Labs fellow who invested in a bomb shelter. Indeed, some even
worried that there could be a bomb in Sputnik itself that would
be dropped upon us.

All this came at a time when the U.S. had working for us the
cream of the crop of the German rocket scientists and engineers
who built the V-2 weapons that the Nazis rained down on
London in World War II. Werner von Braun and his colleagues
were working for the U.S. Army and had been lobbying
vigorously with the government to get permission to launch a
satellite. However, to their disgust, Eisenhower denied their
request. In fact, it was rumored that von Braun and his crew
were monitored closely to ensure that they did not disobey orders
and sneak a satellite into orbit. In fact, a Jupiter C rocket was
launched in 1956 with one of its engines loaded with sand
instead of fuel so as to prevent an "accidental" insertion of the
rocket''s fourth stage into orbit!

When the Soviets beat us to the punch with Sputnik, you might
think that Eisenhower was quite upset. Quite the contrary,
according to Dickson. Ike was actually secretly happy to see that
Soviet satellite circling over the U.S. Why? He knew something
he couldn''t tell us. Namely, we had the U-2 planes flying high
over the USSR and knew what the Soviets were up to. But Ike
knew that couldn''t go on forever. What he wanted was an "open
skies" policy so that the U.S. could fell free to eventually launch
spy satellites to monitor the military capabilities of the Soviet
Union. When Sputnik flew over us, Voila! We had our de facto
open sky and space was thrown open to all. In retrospect, it
makes me feel better about my votes for Ike, who gets higher and
higher ratings from historians as time goes by.

Well, the Soviets followed with other firsts - the first animal in
space, the first man in space and in orbit, the first woman in
space, the first landing of a probe on the moon, the first views of
the other side of the moon, the first space station, etc. In 1973, I
saw Yuri Gagarin''s capsule in an exhibit in Moscow. Needless
to say, the craft that housed the first man in space and in orbit
was a very popular attraction. I also won''t forget the day that the
Soviets landed the first probe on the moon. The next day at Bell
Labs we had two Soviet visitors whom I had met at crystal
growth meetings. I greeted them that morning saying in Russian
what I hope meant "I congratulate you on landing on the moon."

Of course, the U.S., spurred on by Sputnik, was aroused out of its
complacency and you know the rest. After many embarrassing
setbacks and the tragedy of the launch pad fire that killed three
astronauts, the U.S. got cracking. There followed the marvels of
the Apollo and subsequent moon landings, driving around on the
moon in an environmentally correct electric vehicle and the
breathtaking pictures brought back from the Hubble telescope
and the spacecraft that have flown to the far reaches of our solar
system. And how could we live without our weather and
communications satellites? Or the term "rocket scientist", as in
he''s no rocket scientist.

It never occurred to me as I watched Sputnik sail by overhead
that one day I would actually meet someone from the Soviet
Union who had designed and built a key component of that very
satellite. Some four decades elapsed before I met Vladimir and
his wife Irina, who came to spend a brief period with our battery
group at UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Vladimir is a very refined, delightful gentleman who is proficient
in several languages. Irina, on the other hand, spoke no English
and I labored mightily to converse with her with my feeble
Russian, mostly unsuccessfully I''m afraid.

Unfortunately, it was after they had left us that I learned that
Vladimir and Irina were responsible for powering the transmitter
broadcasting those beeps heard round the world. Vladimir
designed and Irina built the silver-zinc batteries that flew on
Sputnik. Silver-zinc batteries are not your run of the mill battery
and have their own special niches. Aside from being the first
battery system in space, the 300-ton silver-zinc battery used in
Soviet submarines not only served as a power source but also
must have diminished the amount of ballast needed to dive the
sub into the ocean depths. The silver-zinc battery continues to be
used in submarines, torpedoes and submersibles. At the other
extreme, silver-zinc batteries have seen service on such far out
places as the Space Station, the Lunar Rover on the moon and the
Mars Lander.

While the U.S. had Werner von Braun and his colleagues, it was
Sergei Korolev who was the preeminent figure in the Soviet
space program. It was Korolev who was responsible for the
Sputniks, Lunas, Gagarin''s flight, and other spacecraft such as
the familiar Soyuz that carried astronauts into space. Korolev''s
importance to the Soviet space program was so great that his
identity as "chief designer" was kept secret until only a year
before his death, partly out of fear that he might be assassinated
by our CIA.

Korolev''s life is a book unto itself. He helped found a Moscow
rocketry group that worked on liquid fuel rockets and in 1934 the
USSR Ministry of Defense published his book "Rocket Flight
into the Stratosphere". Another leading figure in the rocket
effort was a poor soul named Ivan Kleimenov. Unfortunately,
for Kleimenov, Joseph Stalin decided that Kleimenov''s institute
was going to use their rocketry to overthrow him. Furthermore,
Kleimenov had worked for Aeroflot in Berlin. In Stalin''s eyes,
that made him a spy. So Stalin had him and his deputy executed.
Stalin''s stupidity extended to Korolev, who was jailed on
trumped up charges and sent to Siberia, ending up in one of the
infamous gulags so eloquently described by Solzhenitsyn.

With the advent of World War II, Stalin changed his mind and in
his warped fashion allowed the formation of a design group of
the best engineers to work on military technology - in prison!
After four years in the gulags, Korolev was transferred into such
a group, which came up with a liquid fuel rocket engine that was
installed on some Soviet and bombers. Finally, after he had been
jailed for 6 years, Stalin allowed as to how Korolev and 34 other
engineers had been "rehabilitated" and they were free. A long
time associate, Mikhail Tikhonravov, convinced Korolev that it
would only take sheer rocket power, developed by using multiple
stages, to accomplish something that Konstantin Tsiolkovsky had
shown mathematically in 1903. Tsiolkovsky had of course shown
that an object thrown at a certain velocity would orbit the earth.
Korolev ultimately ended up building the Soviets'' first ICBM
rocket, the one that would launch Sputnik, and the rest is history.

In 1962, Korolev''s design group began work on a rocket to
deliver cosmonauts to the moon. However, in January of 1966
he died from, of all things, a messed up hemorrhoid operation!
A couple years later, Yuri Gagarin, after surviving the hazardous
flight in space, died in a plane crash at the age of 34. A final
note of irony - on our drive to New Jersey in 1952, I learned that
my wife had canceled my vote for Ike with her vote for Adlai
Stevenson.

Note: NASA''s Web site provided some of the information used
in this column. I highly recommend Dickson''s book for a
fascinating account of those years surrounding Sputnik. Some of
the tales of intrigue and chicanery are unbelievable.

Allen F. Bortrum



AddThis Feed Button

 

-10/31/2002-      
Web Epoch NJ Web Design  |  (c) Copyright 2016 StocksandNews.com, LLC.

Dr. Bortrum

10/31/2002

Beep-Beep

This week the Russians launched a spacecraft carrying three
cosmonauts (one a Belgian) headed for the International Space
Station. This month marks the 45th anniversary of another space
shot from the same Baikonur launch site. On October 4, 1957,
however, it was not Russia, but the Soviet Union that launched
an aluminum alloy sphere only about two feet in diameter, not
too much bigger than a basketball. Before Brian Trumbore
embarked on his current Western trip, he gave me a book about
that 1957 launch titled "Sputnik: the shock of the century" by
Paul Dickson.

At first I thought, "Come on, what about the atom bomb, DNA or
a host of other things?" Surely, that small beeping ball doesn''t
rate top billing for shock value. However, reading the book
brought back my own memories of that day in 1957 when
Sputnik burst upon the scene and of the combination of awe,
fear, admiration and consternation it inspired. I agree with a
quote in the book of the physicist Lloyd Berkner. He predicted
that when 2100 AD rolls around, the year 1957 will stand out as
the year man progressed from a two-dimensional to a three-
dimensional geography.

On October 4, 1957 I was one month shy of marking my fifth
anniversary at Bell Labs. Five years earlier, in November of
1952, we stayed an extra day in Cleveland before driving to New
Jersey to start my new job. The extra day allowed me to cast the
first vote of my life, the first of two votes I would cast for
Dwight Eisenhower. Ike was president on that fateful day when,
for the first time in history, man had thrown something into the
air that didn''t come down. Well, it did come down, but 162 days
later. For 21 of those days, the 184 pound Sputnik containing
only a radio transmitter and batteries to power it, sent out a
"beep-beep-beep" in the key of A-flat for all to hear as it passed
overhead. Although technologically unsophisticated by today''s
standards, Sputnik had an impact that, like 9/11, told us the
world would never be the same.

I recall that in those days it was common to joke that the
Russians were claiming to have invented all kinds of things that
we knew, or thought we knew, someone else had invented. I
remember standing out on the lawn with our neighbors in our
garden apartment complex looking skyward to get a glimpse of
Sputnik as it orbited overhead. After the initial shock of seeing
and hearing Sputnik, the realization set in that this time these
Soviets had indeed invented something. Furthermore, that
something was put in orbit by a rocket system that could just as
well place a nuclear-tipped missile on New York or anywhere
the Soviets desired. The fear was palpable. I knew one Bell
Labs fellow who invested in a bomb shelter. Indeed, some even
worried that there could be a bomb in Sputnik itself that would
be dropped upon us.

All this came at a time when the U.S. had working for us the
cream of the crop of the German rocket scientists and engineers
who built the V-2 weapons that the Nazis rained down on
London in World War II. Werner von Braun and his colleagues
were working for the U.S. Army and had been lobbying
vigorously with the government to get permission to launch a
satellite. However, to their disgust, Eisenhower denied their
request. In fact, it was rumored that von Braun and his crew
were monitored closely to ensure that they did not disobey orders
and sneak a satellite into orbit. In fact, a Jupiter C rocket was
launched in 1956 with one of its engines loaded with sand
instead of fuel so as to prevent an "accidental" insertion of the
rocket''s fourth stage into orbit!

When the Soviets beat us to the punch with Sputnik, you might
think that Eisenhower was quite upset. Quite the contrary,
according to Dickson. Ike was actually secretly happy to see that
Soviet satellite circling over the U.S. Why? He knew something
he couldn''t tell us. Namely, we had the U-2 planes flying high
over the USSR and knew what the Soviets were up to. But Ike
knew that couldn''t go on forever. What he wanted was an "open
skies" policy so that the U.S. could fell free to eventually launch
spy satellites to monitor the military capabilities of the Soviet
Union. When Sputnik flew over us, Voila! We had our de facto
open sky and space was thrown open to all. In retrospect, it
makes me feel better about my votes for Ike, who gets higher and
higher ratings from historians as time goes by.

Well, the Soviets followed with other firsts - the first animal in
space, the first man in space and in orbit, the first woman in
space, the first landing of a probe on the moon, the first views of
the other side of the moon, the first space station, etc. In 1973, I
saw Yuri Gagarin''s capsule in an exhibit in Moscow. Needless
to say, the craft that housed the first man in space and in orbit
was a very popular attraction. I also won''t forget the day that the
Soviets landed the first probe on the moon. The next day at Bell
Labs we had two Soviet visitors whom I had met at crystal
growth meetings. I greeted them that morning saying in Russian
what I hope meant "I congratulate you on landing on the moon."

Of course, the U.S., spurred on by Sputnik, was aroused out of its
complacency and you know the rest. After many embarrassing
setbacks and the tragedy of the launch pad fire that killed three
astronauts, the U.S. got cracking. There followed the marvels of
the Apollo and subsequent moon landings, driving around on the
moon in an environmentally correct electric vehicle and the
breathtaking pictures brought back from the Hubble telescope
and the spacecraft that have flown to the far reaches of our solar
system. And how could we live without our weather and
communications satellites? Or the term "rocket scientist", as in
he''s no rocket scientist.

It never occurred to me as I watched Sputnik sail by overhead
that one day I would actually meet someone from the Soviet
Union who had designed and built a key component of that very
satellite. Some four decades elapsed before I met Vladimir and
his wife Irina, who came to spend a brief period with our battery
group at UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Vladimir is a very refined, delightful gentleman who is proficient
in several languages. Irina, on the other hand, spoke no English
and I labored mightily to converse with her with my feeble
Russian, mostly unsuccessfully I''m afraid.

Unfortunately, it was after they had left us that I learned that
Vladimir and Irina were responsible for powering the transmitter
broadcasting those beeps heard round the world. Vladimir
designed and Irina built the silver-zinc batteries that flew on
Sputnik. Silver-zinc batteries are not your run of the mill battery
and have their own special niches. Aside from being the first
battery system in space, the 300-ton silver-zinc battery used in
Soviet submarines not only served as a power source but also
must have diminished the amount of ballast needed to dive the
sub into the ocean depths. The silver-zinc battery continues to be
used in submarines, torpedoes and submersibles. At the other
extreme, silver-zinc batteries have seen service on such far out
places as the Space Station, the Lunar Rover on the moon and the
Mars Lander.

While the U.S. had Werner von Braun and his colleagues, it was
Sergei Korolev who was the preeminent figure in the Soviet
space program. It was Korolev who was responsible for the
Sputniks, Lunas, Gagarin''s flight, and other spacecraft such as
the familiar Soyuz that carried astronauts into space. Korolev''s
importance to the Soviet space program was so great that his
identity as "chief designer" was kept secret until only a year
before his death, partly out of fear that he might be assassinated
by our CIA.

Korolev''s life is a book unto itself. He helped found a Moscow
rocketry group that worked on liquid fuel rockets and in 1934 the
USSR Ministry of Defense published his book "Rocket Flight
into the Stratosphere". Another leading figure in the rocket
effort was a poor soul named Ivan Kleimenov. Unfortunately,
for Kleimenov, Joseph Stalin decided that Kleimenov''s institute
was going to use their rocketry to overthrow him. Furthermore,
Kleimenov had worked for Aeroflot in Berlin. In Stalin''s eyes,
that made him a spy. So Stalin had him and his deputy executed.
Stalin''s stupidity extended to Korolev, who was jailed on
trumped up charges and sent to Siberia, ending up in one of the
infamous gulags so eloquently described by Solzhenitsyn.

With the advent of World War II, Stalin changed his mind and in
his warped fashion allowed the formation of a design group of
the best engineers to work on military technology - in prison!
After four years in the gulags, Korolev was transferred into such
a group, which came up with a liquid fuel rocket engine that was
installed on some Soviet and bombers. Finally, after he had been
jailed for 6 years, Stalin allowed as to how Korolev and 34 other
engineers had been "rehabilitated" and they were free. A long
time associate, Mikhail Tikhonravov, convinced Korolev that it
would only take sheer rocket power, developed by using multiple
stages, to accomplish something that Konstantin Tsiolkovsky had
shown mathematically in 1903. Tsiolkovsky had of course shown
that an object thrown at a certain velocity would orbit the earth.
Korolev ultimately ended up building the Soviets'' first ICBM
rocket, the one that would launch Sputnik, and the rest is history.

In 1962, Korolev''s design group began work on a rocket to
deliver cosmonauts to the moon. However, in January of 1966
he died from, of all things, a messed up hemorrhoid operation!
A couple years later, Yuri Gagarin, after surviving the hazardous
flight in space, died in a plane crash at the age of 34. A final
note of irony - on our drive to New Jersey in 1952, I learned that
my wife had canceled my vote for Ike with her vote for Adlai
Stevenson.

Note: NASA''s Web site provided some of the information used
in this column. I highly recommend Dickson''s book for a
fascinating account of those years surrounding Sputnik. Some of
the tales of intrigue and chicanery are unbelievable.

Allen F. Bortrum