Category Archives: Sen. Pete Domenici on the Future of Nuclear Technology

Winter 1998



Photo courtesy of AP/Wide World Photos.

The Launch of the U.S. Space Program

Jubilation is apparent in the faces of (l. to r.) William Pickering, James Van Allen, and Wernher von Braun, shown here holding a full-size copy of Explorer I, the first successful U.S. satellite. Pickering, director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, developed Explorer I for use with the Army Jupiter-C rocket, which was designed by von Braun. Van Allen, relying in part on data gathered by Explorer I, discovered the belt of ionizing radiation-known as the Van Allen Belt-surrounding the Earth.

The photo was taken 40 years ago at a January 1958 press conference at the National Academy of Sciences to announce the launch. The mood in the room was very different from what it had been a few months earlier when scientists attending an International Geophysical Year conference on rockets and satellites, which was also held in the NAS building, learned that the USSR had successfully launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik I. One NAS member who was present characterized the participants’ response as an “unfortunate sour-grapes reception.”