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Rocket Mishaps

To the Editors:

The article “Rocket Science and Russian Spies” by Joseph A. Castellano (November–December 2008) and a subsequent letter reminded me how the first Sputnik launch once changed my plans. The U.S. Vanguard project to launch the first earth-orbiting satellite, during the upcoming International Geophysical Year, was announced by the White House in 1955. IBM computers were to be heavily involved with the project. In preparation for the public portrayal of its role in this important international event, IBM arranged with the three major television networks to interrupt their scheduled programming and present an IBM-produced dramatization of the first earth-orbiting satellite with live action and animated sequences. Walt Disney Studios was engaged to create and produce the animation.

As IBM’s ranking West Coast “applied science” representative, I was to be IBM’s liaison to Disney. It would be an exciting event, seen all over the world. But the excitement was short-lived. On Nov. 3, 1957, before the first meeting with Disney, Sputnik reached its successful orbit. IBM’s great plan, and mine, quietly disappeared and was never heard from again.

Lloyd Hubbard
Minneapolis, MN

To the Editors:

Joseph Castellano’s statement that “Early rocket designs used liquid fuels that required one cryogenic tank filled with liquid hydrogen and another with liquid oxygen” is mistaken for engines used in the first ICBMs. Both the Atlas and liquid-fueled Minuteman engines used petroleum-based hydrocarbon fuel. Liquid hydrogen in large rocket engines was a later development used for the second and third stages of the Saturn V.

Gerald Cooper
Punta Gorda, FL

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