The launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, blazed an orbital trail for hundreds of communications, remote sensing, weather, and spy satellites. Fifty years later, the little sphere’s impact on science, politics, and culture is still evident around the world. Here’s a list of suggestions for celebrating the anniversary.
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1 VISIT THE NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM in Washington, D.C., to see the Sputnik model in the Milestones of Flight gallery, then tour Sergei P. Korolev, whose work established the Soviet school of rocket and spacecraft design. Or visit Moscow and walk the Avenue of the Cosmonauts toward mockups of Sputnik and a 300-foot titanium monument entitled “To the Conquerors of Space” at the Memorial Museum of Cosmonautics.
2 BECOME AN ASTRONAUT FOR A DAY at Space Camp, for campers age 7 to 18, at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, spacecamp.com. For information, call (800) 63 SPACE. The Corporate Space Camp, also in Huntsville, is a leadership camp for adults (with all the fun space stuff you loved as a kid). Reach the Corporate Space Camp at (800) 894-2773 or online at corporatecamp.com.
3 WITH A 2007 YEAR IN SPACE calendar, count the days until Sputnik’s anniversary. Included are lists of this year’s launches and space missions. Mention Air & Space for a 25 percent discount on the $15.95 retail price when ordering online at yearinspace.com/images.htm or by phone: (800) 736-6836.
4 SEE SATURN V launch vehicles. The 363-foot, three-stage monsters, the last of which flew on May 14, 1973, are laid out at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The Huntsville display is actually a Dynamic Test Vehicle, never meant to go to space, but in 1987 the National Park Service designated it a historic landmark. For details on all three, see history.msfc.nasa.gov/saturn_apollo/display.html.
5 TACK UP SPACE-THEME CARTOONS from grinningplanet.com, science fiction cartoons and parody from cartoons.sev.com.au/Sev-Space/, alien cartoons from offthemark.com/aliens/aliens.htm, and space politics and biting caricatures on cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/directory/s/space.asp. At kidsastronomy.com/jokes/jokes.htm, laugh at galactically lame jokes (How do we know Saturn was married more than once? He has lots of rings.)
6 WATCH MUPPETS FROM SPACE and understand why Sony Pictures’ promotional team wrote the tagline “Space. It’s not as deep as you think.” You can buy the 88-minute DVD online for $9.95 from Amazon or muppets.go.com.
7 RENT A MOONSUIT from Moon Space Suits, which has supplied museums, filmmakers, and the producers of that Little Caesar’s Pizza commercial. Find your personal moon suit at moonspacesuits.com or spacesuit.net, or (914) 481-4200.
8 CHALLENGE MYTHS about space travel, or invent some of your own, by downloading Jim Gerard’s presentation, We Really Did Land on the Moon: Urban Legends of the Space Age. Send questions and comments to Gerard at firstname.lastname@example.org for posting on his online forum.
9 STAR TREK FANS, there’s more than one way to celebrate Sputnik’s birthday. Pose with these Star Trek Enterprise wax figures when they tour a Trekkie convention in your galaxy. Chris Liebl and Lori Greenthal snatched them up at an auction for $34,000 in March 2006. “The Crew,” from the former Movieland Wax Museum, is traveling while the partners raise funds for a permanent home. See enterprisewax.com for tour dates.