Sputnik@50. If you have zero interest in the watch, but more interest in the Satellite, scroll down a bit past the watch info, there are many current links and other information on this page...
A late 50's watch was made at the First Moscow Watch Factory (1Mchz) commemorating Sputnik-1, the first artificial satellite to be put into orbit around the Earth. 'Sputnik-1,' or PS-1, for 'Prosteishiy Sputnik' — the Simplest Satellite, was launched on 4 October 1957. This watch is all about the dial. The Earth is clearly in the center with the Soviet Union in red. The seconds hand could represent Sputnik herself orbiting around the Earth, her path marked by the thin red circle. You can see there are rocket ships marking off the hour increments, except at 12, 3, 6 and 9 (Sputnik was launched by the rocket R-7 Semyorka). I like how the numbers expand a bit toward the periphery.
The crystal is unusual, or might simply be the wrong crystal for the watch; you can see it is super tall, rises up from the case more than in most watches. The sides are rough and opaque and I think are meant for adhering into a deeper set into the case.
This watch has elements which have been cobbled together. The case is simple. The original case is more ornate. Though not authentic, I actually like this simple case better. The minute and hour hands are not original, should be steel color. The caseback is screw-down. I am virtually certain the dial on this particular watch is afake or at least not an original 1950s version. Click here to read why.
There was a white/cream dial version of this, and there were also versions where the ticking seconds was represented by a clear disc with the Sputnik ticking at the edge. This seems very rare to find now. Overall I am very pleased with this Sputnik wristwatch even if the dial is not original. (more below)
It is fifty years since the launch of Sputnik, and it is an interesting time to pause and consider Sputnik. There is a fair bit of international activity going on at the moment to look back on the past fifty years of space exploration and consider the next (see links below.)
The lead-up to Sputnik had its roots in the emerging tensions between two former wartime allies, as they differed on how to reconstruct the postwar world. Soon after the end of WWII the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union had already begun. With this background, both nations sought advantages in all arenas including military, political, scientific and technological. Amidst this environment, the International Council of Scientific Unions, announced in 1952 an upcoming International Geophysical Year, to commence 1 July 1957, lasting actually eighteen months to 31 December 1958. The ICSU, founded in 1931 and based in Paris, promoted a kind of 'science without borders' and the IGY was 'intended to allow scientists from around the world to take part in a series of coordinated observations of various geophysical phenomena.' (1) Both the United States and the Soviet Union were participants, and each announced plans to launch artificial orbiting satellites during the IGY. What might have began as a 'healthy competition' among scientists led ultimately to an overwhelming Soviet triumph, a 'Sputnik Crisis' for the United States, the beginning of the Space Race and indeed the Space Age.
Rocket programs were ongoing for many years before, but during WWII Germany in particular was successful with the V-2 rocket at the Peenemunde facility. After Germany fell, the United States and the Soviet Union captured equipment as well as German rocket scientists, 'importing' them back home, and possibly incarcerating them, for their rocket programs. Soviet research was able to replicate and improve on the V-2, with R-1, R-2, and R-5; the R-7 used to launch Sputnik was of a different design. From the same German technology, the Americans developed the Redstone/Jupiter C rocket. (continued below)
Technician and Sputnik-1. With four long antennae, it weighed 183 pounds, and took 98 minutes to orbit Earth, traveling at 18,000 mph.
Sputnik-1 was carried aboard an R-7 rocket like this one, launched at the later-to-be named 'Baikonur Cosmodrome.' Do you just love the word 'Cosmodrome' A photo of the actual launch is below.
U.S. high school radio operators erect an antenna, to receive radio signals from Sputnik. The satellite transmitted for 21 days, until it's batteries ran dead, though the satellite continued to orbit for a few months.
Sounds of Sputnik. Russian children listen to radio signals from the satellite. In the aftermath, American education was questioned and many considered Soviet education superior. These children, therefore, were probably absolutely brilliant. The girl looks the smartest.
In Los Angeles, members of the public gaze at the heavens in search of Sputnik.
So, both countries were utilizing every available resource, working feverishly to become first in Space, fully aware their 'adversaries' were doing the same. While the missions had ostensible scientific merit and goals, it is generally accepted that the initial efforts were mainly about being first. In the words of Georgi Grechko, a Soviet scientist involved with the project:
'Now I can tell you a big secret. Our first Sputnik was supposed to be gigantic, weighing about a half a tonne, full of scientific equipment. When we began to test this gigantic, absolutely fabulous Sputnik, we discovered that one or another part of this equipment was constantly failing. At the same time the Americans were trying again to launch their satellite, their second attempt. So Korolev realized that while we were messing around with all the scientific equipment the Americans would be the first to launch an artificial satellite. First in the world. That's forever. So we quickly began to build a second Sputnik. We even called it that: SS, that is, 'Simple Sputnik.' It was built for one thing and one thing only - to win this first stage of the space race.' (2)
(This 'absolutely fabulous' Sputnik was Sputnik III, launched in 1958. Its massive size and complexity was like a second shock to the U.S., even though by then they had sent their own into orbit.)
The 'Sputnik Crisis' for American led to the creation of NASA and DARPA, increase in space-related spending, even the creation of 'new math' to help foster a new generation of scientists engineers. United States did launch their first satellite on 31 January 1958, called Explorer or 'Satellite 1958 Alpha.' Nikita Kruschchev was said to have called it a 'grapefruit.' This was not before the Soviet union launched Sputnik-2 carrying the first living passenger into Space, the stray Russian street-dog Laika on 3 November 1957 less than a month after Sputnik-1. The following years were marked by both Soviet and American successes (as well as catastrophic failures), including Laika, Yuri Gagarin the first human into orbit (USSR), orbiting the Moon and photographing her Dark Side (USSR,) landing a probe on the Moon (USSR,) manned orbit of the moon (US,) and landing a man on the Moon (US). (continued below)
Sputnik was launched in the late evening on 4 October 1957 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. 'Two generations after the event, words do not easily convey the American reaction to the Soviet satellite' (3) A 'Pearl Harbor' effect on public opinion has been described, as the average citizen was introduced to the Space Age in a crisis setting. I have no personal history or recollection of Sputnik, having been born years later, but especially because of the 50 year mark, the Web has many resources for readers who wish to learn more about it, and the resulting 'collective mental turmoil and soul-searching ... as American society thrashed around for the answers.' (3)
There are many links below, sounds, video, 50th anniversary sites, etc...
Laika, Earth's first living space traveler inside Sputnik-2. Telemetry showed she perished in her craft after just a few hours, from heat and possibly anxiety. But proving that creatures can survive liftoff and weightlessness, Laika blazed a trail for eventual human spaceflight.
This photo is said to show nighttime launch of the actual R7 rocket which carried Sputnik-1. I don't have confirmation of this, and some say there either are no photos of the launch, or they have never been released.
Sputnik @ 50
Even Soviet springbars, with their 3 part construction, seem strange, alien, technologically superior...
'THERE WERE THREE GREAT SHOCKS TO AMERICA THAT BROUGHT HER TO HER KNEES... PEARL HARBOR, 9/11, AND THE LAUNCH OF SPUTNIK...'