Oct. 4, 1957
I was 10 years old (same age as my grandson Xavier) and I remember the news: the Russians had launched the first satellite. It was a big deal because it was the first step into space, but a bigger deal because it was the Russians, not us Americans, who'd done it.
Over the next year I remember lots of talk about our space program, and at least one American rocket that crashed and burned on the launch pad. It wasn't until February 1958 that we finally got it right, launching the "Explorer" satellite.
I was geeky enough that for Christmas in '57 I got an illustrated book about Sputnik and in the back of the book was a 45 rpm record of Sputnik sounds. And I was geeky enough that I loved the book and listened to the record, which all sounded pretty much like the clip below. But it was from space!
Source: Sounds from the first satellites
I know I still have that book & record but couldn't find it today when I went up into the attic to paw through boxes of old crap. Many boxes. I found the letter I wrote to my draft board after I'd appeared in front of them to defend my application for "conscientious objector" status during the Vietnam War. I found lots of lesson plans, handouts, and student assignments from when I taught at the long-defunct Cooper School of Art. I found newspapers, sketchbooks, magazines and articles from my college years at the University of Dayton. But no Sputnik book. [Found it in March 08]
Fifty years ago today. That ten-year-old geeky kid didn't grow up to be the scientist he thought he would, but he's OK with that.