Monday, September 10, 2007

dummy in space

Sputnik 4 was a Soviet satellite, part of the Sputnik program and a test-flight of the Vostok spacecraft that would be used for the first human spaceflight. It was launched on May 15, 1960. (Sputnik 1 of course had been launched in 1957.)

A bug in the guidance system had pointed the capsule of this #4 in the wrong direction, so instead of dropping into the atmosphere the satellite moved into a higher orbit. It re-entered the atmosphere on or about September 5, 1962. A piece was found in the middle of a major street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

This spacecraft, the first of a series of spacecraft used to investigate the means for manned space flight, contained scientific instruments, a television system, and a self-sustaining biological cabin with a dummy of a man.

"I remember quite well the Sunday morning when the news of the launch of Sputnik-4 was announced," writes Sven Grahn. It really made big headlines and was seen as a first step to manned spaceflight, despite the fact that TASS clearly stated that the spacecraft would not be returned to earth."

Meantime, at Seattle University, the math department attributes to Sputnik the pressure to beef up the math-science faculty even if it meant violating some old taboos. And so Mary Turner, the first woman on the math faculty there, was hired. (She had also been the first woman to earn a doctorate in mathematics at the University of Chicago.)