In 1957 I was 11 years old. Those were the days of the “Cold War” and the mysterious communists — the Soviet Union. Nobody had any idea what was going on inside that massive country and we all assumed the worst. Like a lot of kids my age, I was a bit of a “space” nut. I loved going to the Hayden Planetarium and learning about the early space program with rocket aircraft like the X-15 and ground launched rockets that were on the drawing boards.
The headboard for my bed had bookshelves and in the center of it, next to my pillow, was a National SW-54 short-wave radio that I had received as a Christmas gift. I would listen at night before going to sleep… mostly picked up “HAM” radio operators talking about their gear. That all changed with the launch of Sputnik in October of 1957. This was an event that sent fear into everyone. I was too young at the time to fully understand all the political ramifications, but I could tell the adults were pretty upset about it. My short-wave radio was able to pick up the broadcast from Sputnik. Here is what it sounded like.sputnk The newspaper would inform us at those times when Sputnik would be visible. I remember one evening just after sunset, my family and some of the neighbors gathered outside to watch for it. I had my radio tuned in and turned up and as the beeps got louder. Sure enough, a streak blazed across the sky. The sun had set on New Jersey, but not on the stratosphere above us where Sputnik was cruising along.