Happy birthday, Sputnik

sputnik_asm.jpg On this day 50 years ago, the Soviet Union ushered in the space age by blasting a 83 kg metal ball into orbit. Oh, and it beeped.

It amazed the world. It scared Americans. It only stayed up for 22 days. But after Sputnik, nothing was really ever the same in science, politics, or our conception of the universe.

I always dug the cool retro vibe of Sputnik. It's streamline simplicity is so much cooler than today's asymmetrical, solar panel bonanza satellites. I mean, where's the love? Sure today's satellites can do all kinds of stuff, like see into the vast reaches of space or photograph a golf ball from 800km away. But there's something to be said for the quiet, insistent, ultimately meaningless beeping of Sputnik into a vast, incomprehensible void. In fact, I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere.

UPDATE [05/10/07]: Arthur C. Clarke sounds off on Sputnik.