January 18, 2008
Happy (Almost) 50th, Explorer 1!
On January 31, 1958, the United States proved its unfailing love for one-upping the competition by launching its first satellite, Explorer 1, into Earth orbit.
The probe was a direct response to the Soviet Union's October 4, 1957, launch of Sputnik 1. Not to be outdone by "dirty Commies," the U.S. government went to the then military-focused Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California and charged it with getting our collective asses in gear.
"The successful launch of Explorer 1, followed by the formation of NASA in Oct. 1958, transformed JPL from a producer of ballistic missiles to a preeminent center for robotic exploration of our solar system and beyond," the agency writes in a press release.
Last fall media outlets the world over celebrated Sputnik as the 50th anniversary of the start of the space race—and how it impacted the current international race to the moon—with copious amounts of news articles, photo galleries, editorials, and videos.
Something tells me that last year's media blitz will keep a similar frenzy from getting whipped up over poor Explorer. But we're a space nut, so we say, "Who loves ya, baby?"