The following is an excerpt from Alan Boyle | July 10, 2012 | msnbc.com |
Fifty years ago today, the Space Age gave birth to the age of satellite communication as we know it — though it wasn’t clear at the time just how world-changing that outer-space angle would turn out to be. In retrospect, you could argue that the launch of AT&T’s Telstar 1 satellite on July 10, 1962, made as much of a mark on the space frontier as Sputnik.
At the time, Americans worried that outer space was turning into a Cold War battleground, thanks to the Soviet Union’s launch of the first-ever satellite (Sputnik in 1957) and the first human in space (Yuri Gagarin in 1961). “Only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new, terrifying theater of war,” President John F. Kennedy declared in 1962.
Telstar, the world’s first commercial satellite, marked the shift from outer space’s potential military applications to its peaceful uses — which is the way most people think of space ventures today. Within hours of Telstar’s launch on a Thor-Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., the satellite beamed a non-public test transmission from Andover Earth Station in Maine to the Pleumeur-Bodou ground station in France. Two weeks later, on July 23, it relayed the first-ever public, live trans-Atlantic TV signal, linking Europe and North America.
That was the start of something big.
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