was carried by the balloon to 70,000 feet. It fired, the second stage fired, and everything went blank. We did that twice. Then JPL told us that although the rocket may be at 150,000 feet or so, it still has a great deal of heating that will burn through the tail fins and the nose cone.
Three or four days later, the small rocket that is on the top of the rocket exploded on deck, severely injuring our Navy representative who is up there, right behind me. We got him to shore, he made a complete recovery but I had to come down to Washington and face the Navy. I must say in all of my years, I have never been dressed-down quite as strongly as they did. And with me already feeling very badly about the whole thing. There were roughly 100 Rockoon flights in six expeditions started in 1952, and they were great fun. A lot of the experiments were done, ionization chambers, single Geiger counters, double and the shielded Geiger counters; the same experiments that we would later fly on satellites.
There was a very interesting study done in 1946 by the RAND project that stated that although the crystal ball into the future is cloudy, two things seem clear: “A satellite vehicle with appropriate instrumentation can be expected to be one of the most potent scientific tools for the 20th century. The achievement of a satellite craft by the United States would inflame the imagination of mankind, and would probably produce repercussions in the world comparable to the explosion of the atomic bomb.” Neither of these statements were over-statements by any stretch of the imagination, as proved to be the case when the Soviets launched a satellite first, and there were worldwide repercussions that the Soviets were ahead of us.
Starting in 1954, with the development of ICBMs, it became obvious that a satellite could be launched if you had the will to do it. The U.S. proposed through its International Geophysical Coordination (IGY ) committee that they would launch a satellite during the IGY period in 1957 to 1958, and the Soviets came back saying they too were going to launch a satellite. We were distinctly told what their intentions were. They were going to launch Sputnik, as shown in Figure 9.5. Our reaction was one of surprise and dismay, as shown by the strong reaction in Life Magazine.
The Soviet who made Sputnik happen was Sergey Korolyov, who had spent World War II in a Soviet