This October we rightly celebrate the 50th anniversary of the launch of the world’s first satellite, Sputnik-1. Although many call this the start of the Space Exploration era, I beg to differ.
There were several rocket flights prior to Sputnik that arguably can qualify as ushering in the era of spaceflight. One can make a case for the real start beginning in the 1940
s with the German V2 rocket. Although the rocket certainly has a dubious history of terrorizing Allied countries in World War II, it may have the distinction of lofting the first man-made object into
space. On October 3, 1942, a V2 rocket thundered into history by reaching the
80-kilometer altitude mark, an altitude recognized by NASA as the edge of space.
Some would argue that ”
space” starts at 100 kilometers
. Even if this definition is used, a V2 rocket with a WAC Corporal upper stage was launched from White Sands, N.M., in February
1949 and achieved an altitude of 400 kilometers
If this is not high enough, some historians claim that a manhole cover, which blasted upwards during a U.S. nuclear explosion in the summer of 1957, reached escape velocity and is now past the orbit of Pluto (I’m not making this stuff up).
Old Fields, W.Va.