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1957: Cold War spy seen over Cuckfield

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

When the Russian earth-circling satellite passed over Britain at about dawn today, it was on its 110th world circuit, with a total of three million miles to its credit. It is a week since it was launched.

At Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, the world's largest radio telescope established contact with either the satellite or part of its rocket during the night.

When the satellite crossed Britain around dawn its signals were very clear, and it appeared to be going as strongly as ever.

But radio engineers at the BBC listening post at Tatsfield, on the Kent-Surrey border, who heard the signals shortly after 7am reported that they were getting fainter.

A good picture

A reporter, telephoning from Jodrell Bank. Cheshire, said that scientists working the world's largest radio telescope wondered whether they had 'bounced' a radar beam off the Russian satellite and the rocket, or the rocket and a cone.

The possibility of their success will depend on a further study of an 'extremely good' picture taken.

A claim that the satellite was seen over Sussex at 5.30am today was made by Major and Mrs WSH Garforth of Cuckfield. who said that they both saw it with the naked eye and also had time to watch it through binoculars.

The normal seven observations were carried out at Cambridge during the night, and confirmation obtained that the satellite was moving at about the same speed, but that its height varied from 130 miles at its lowest point to 600 at the highest point of its orbit.

Mars flight plans

In Copenhagen, yesterday, Soviet Professor Antonaly Blagonravov, one of the satellite's creators, denied previous reports that the satellite contains any telephoto apparatus.

Professor Blagonravov and two of his colleagues said a rocket trip from Moscow to New York in ten minutes would be possible in a few years.

Moscow Radio said yesterday that Soviet and foreign scientists were already planning flights to Mars in space ships weighing 1,700 tons on take off.

The round trip would take 952 days, the radio said, including 440 days 'waiting time' on Mars, or one of its satellite planets, while the earth and Mars spun into favourable relative positions for the return.

Halifax Daily Courier & Guardian, 12 October 1957

Photo: A full-scale model of Sputnik measures 2ft x7 ft long. A Wikimedia public domain image.

NOTE: Sputnik was the first object placed in orbit, back in the USSR, October 1957. It was the beep-beep-beep heard round the world. Its radio transmitters provided data on the Earth's ionosphere and on the structure and temperature of the upper atmosphere. More significantly, its creation ignited the historic Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Its radio signal was easily detectable by ham radio enthusiasts (20 and 40 MHz), and the 65° orbital inclination and duration of its orbit made its flight path cover virtually the entire inhabited Earth, proving to all that they had done it.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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