Reaching for orbit

While the missile programmes of the rival superpowers moved steadily forwards in the 1950s, enthusiasts on both sides were convinced that the same technology could be used for the exploration of space. The announcement of a forthcoming International Geophysical Year (IGY) of scientific study would finally spur their superiors into action.

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Delegates at a 1954 New York symposium inspect a model of Dr. Fred Singer's MOUSE (Minimum Orbital Unmonned Satellite of Earth), a US project proposed in the early planning stages of the IGY but later shelved.

A MOUSE IN SPACE?

Delegates at a 1954 New York symposium inspect a model of Dr. Fred Singer's MOUSE (Minimum Orbital Unmonned Satellite of Earth), a US project proposed in the early planning stages of the IGY but later shelved.

PROJECT JUPITER

The first Redstone took to the skies on 20 August 1953. Over the following years, von Braun's team refined it into variants such as the Jupiter A and C. These multi-stage rockets, both developed as part of the Army's plans for the Jupiter IRBM, borrowed ideas from Project Orbiter. Ultimately the Jupiter C, renamed Juno, would act as launcher for the first US satellite.

By the early 1950s, many in the scientific community felt that space travel was an idea whose time had come. Ideas of launching a person into space still seemed outlandish, but the prospects for putting some kind of artificial satellite into orbit seemed promising. Hawkish thinkers and military powers on both sides also saw the advantages. Space might become an important new front in the Cold War and a vital strategic element if the Cold War ever became "hot".

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