Watching the launch reminded me that Folkways had some space-themed documentary recordings that I had never listened to. Moses Asch made more than folk music records--being an audiophile, what he really wanted to do was create a catalog of the world's sound. Leaps in sound production quality during the space age made it possible to make scientifically useful recordings that also managed to capture the wonder of the time.
On October 4, 1957, Russian scientists, from somewhere in Russia, fired the rocket that put the first artificial satellite into an orbit going around the world once in about 96 minutes. Man's first artificial satellite is called "Sputnik," Russian for traveler.
Our story begins on the morning of Friday, May 5th, 1961 at 34 minutes past the hour of ten, at Cape Canaveral in the state of Florida. A man touches a button, the touch ignites the engines of a powerful rocket standing not too far away, gleaming white in the powerful light of the tropical sun. With a roar and a blast of flame, the rocket starts to lift straight up. For the hundreds of men and women who usually work at Cape Canaveral the launching of a rocket has become almost routine, but not in this case. For at the top of the rocket, inside a strange looking vehicle that looks something like a child's toy top, there was a man.
He is at this moment inside the cone shaped capsule perched atop the missile, awaiting the final seconds of the countdown which is already begun. The rocket itself is in full view. It is a gleaming white Mercury Redstone rocket, towering nearly 83 feet into the sunny sky, and is a modified version of the one that helped push America's first satellite into orbit some five years ago.
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