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Space and Beyond
If someone were to ask me my opinion of when space travel really started and who really made it a reality, I believe I would have to say it was Walt Disney and the date was 1955. You see, Disney had already found the key to open every American kid's eyes to the wonders of the world and what results can be achieved by maintaining a vivid imagination and the ability to dream your dreams. BESIDES GIVING US ANNETTE FUNICELLO!
The original "Kingdoms" of Disneyland consisted of : Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. Disney already had the youth of America in the palms of his hands when his shows captured our imaginations in the first 3 "Lands". In 1955 Disney showed us Tomorrowland. Between interviews with Verner Von Braum providing the hows and whys of rocketry and Disney animated portrayals of space fight, he capture the imagination of just about every kid and made us all want to be "space pilots" (the term astronaut hadn't been brought up yet. I truly think that just about every NASA engineer got their inspiration from Disney. Disney also made the public hungry for space flight.
All of that just so happen to coinside with The International Geophysical Year (IGY), which was an international scientific project that lasted from July 1, 1957, to December 31, 1958. The IGY encompassed eleven Earth sciences: aurora and airglow, cosmic rays, geomagnetism, gravity, ionospheric physics, longitude and latitude determinations (precision mapping), meteorology, oceanography, seismology, and solar activity. In order to achieve this, it was a given that placing a scientic lab in an earth orbit so that it became a satellite of earth would be just the thing to do. However, at that time no one had ever placed an artificial satellite into earth orbit.
The United Staes had plans for a satellite called Vangard. The propulsion of these satelites into orbit would be military ballistic missles. Not only could the US show it's superiority in space science to all the rest of the world but would also demonstrate the abilities of it's nuclear adaptable rockets. In addition, these launches would all be publicly shown to the world.The first of the vangard rockets blew up on the launch pads. A second US satelite by the name of Explorer was able to achieve orbit.
Both the Soviet Union and the U.S. launched artificial satellites for this event; the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, launched on October 4, 1957, was the first successful artificial satellite. Other significant achievements of the IGY included the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts and the discovery of mid-ocean submarine ridges, an important confirmation of plate tectonics. Also detected was the rare occurrence of hard solar corpuscular radiation that could be highly dangerous for manned space flight.
Ever since then, the race has been held between the super powers to go farther, faster, and bigger in their rocketry.
But all in all, we'd never have made it to the moon without Disney!
Vagaurd 1 Rocket