Almost exactly 50 years ago, America was playing catch up with the Soviet Union and their multiple successes with the Sputnik series of spacecraft. President Eisenhower feared the Soviets would receive any use of military rockets to deliver spacecraft as a threat to their national security and not as a means to achieve our own scientific goals. For this reason, America’s early attempts to put a satellite in orbit were all failures and eventually placed the US in the embarrassing position of having no success in space vs. the Soviet’s many.
When America finally did resort to using the military class Jupiter rockets to deliver the Explorer series of satellites, the space race had begun and America’s losing streak was over. As Eisenhower feared, the Soviets immediately reacted by protesting Explorer’s “violation” of Soviet borders as the satellite had an orbit that passed over their air space (despite the fact that Sputnik had done the same over the US). To help tamp down any perceptions that the American space program was a militaristic show of aggression, Eisenhower asked NASA to make it’s next launch a different kind of satellite.
On December 18, 1958 the SCORE satellite was placed into orbit and became the world’s first communications satellite by broadcasting the following message:
“This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you via a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one: Through this unique means I convey to you and all mankind, America’s wish for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere.”
Happy New Year.