Today in History
History's Happenings for October 4
In a move that surprised the world and worried the U. S. Military, the Soviet Union launched the space race on October 4, 1957 when it sent the world's first satellite into orbit atop a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile.
Sputnik 1, after the Russian word for "fellow traveler", weighed only 184 lbs. and circled the earth every 96.2 minutes until burning up in the atmosphere 57 days after launch. Its mission was to radio back data on the upper atmosphere. Its effect on the world was electrifying.
Just a month later, on November 3rd, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2, weighing in at a relatively hefty half ton and carrying Laika, a female dog. The flight demonstrated the ability of an advanced organism to survive in space -- although Laika died when her oxygen ran out a few days later.
The twin Soviet launches spurred the United States to light a fire under its fledgling space program (pun intended) and, after one booster exploded on launch, it sent Explorer I into orbit atop a Navy Vanguard rocket on January 31, 1958. Explorer weighed in at a measly 31 lbs., and the Soviets responded with well over a ton, launching Sputnik 3 in May. The race was on.
Several of the later Sputnik series vehicles were, in fact, copies of the Vostok spacecraft which eventually placed the first astronaut -- Yuri Gagarin -- in space in April, 1961.
The implications of the successful Soviet use of a full-scale ICBM to boost their satellites were not lost on the U.S. Reacting to both the prestige and military aspects of the newly born race for space, in 1958 President Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Gradually a gulf opened between the United States and the Soviets regarding goals in space. The Russians, who always viewed their space program as a military undertaking with associated bragging rights, and whose computer technology could not keep up with the west, concentrated on unmanned exploratory missions and low earth orbit manned missions.
The United States, with her technological prowess and far greater resources, proceeded mainly from the viewpoint of advancing science -- and also gaining some bragging rights. After the first Mercury mission placed American astronaut Alan Shepard in space in May, 1961, the U.S. focused almost entirely on reaching further and further out into the great vacuum with manned flight, culminating in the heroic first footsteps on the moon by Apollo 11, in July, 1969.
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The nineteenth president of the United States was born on October 4, 1822 in Delaware, Ohio.
Born frail, Rutherford Hayes grew up to attend Harvard Law School and set up his own practice in Cincinnati, where he defended fugitive slaves and helped found the Ohio Republican Party. He served in the Civil War, was wounded five times, and eventually promoted to the rank of general.
Hayes served as Governor of Ohio for eight years ending in 1876, when the Republican party boosted him as a baggage-free presidential offering after the scandal-plagued Grant administration. He lost the election to Democrat Sam Tilden, but supporters in Congress, including southern Democrats, disputed enough of the vote tally to place him in office in what some considered a fraud.
By giving a cabinet post to an ex-Confederate and agreeing to withdraw the last of Federal troops from the South, Hayes attracted charges of political deal-making which cast a shadow over the beginning of his administration.
Nonetheless President Hayes oversaw the return to the gold standard, the banishing of liquor from the White House, and a general resurgence of national prosperity after the Panic of 1873. What's more, he kept his promise to serve only one term.
Serving avidly for charitable causes after his retirement from office, Hayes died on January 17, 1893.
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Arriving in the United States on this date in 1965 for a scheduled address at the United Nations, Pope Paul VI became the first Pope to visit this country.