Denver, Colo., Dec. 17, 2008 - While some children will look to the skies next week for glimpses of a sleigh and reindeer, this week marks the 50th anniversary of something else that came from far, far away in the night sky.
On Dec. 19, 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower wished for peace on Earth and goodwill toward mankind by means of the first communications satellite, orbiting hundreds of miles above the planet. Denver-based United Launch Alliance, builder and operator of the modern Atlas and Delta rocket launch systems, will honor the 50th anniversary of the great achievement, named Project SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment). Project SCORE was a success in placing the entire Atlas rocket into low earth orbit and providing a broadcast capability back to earth.
At the last minute of the mission, President Eisenhower was persuaded to record a Christmas message to the world, which was relayed to the communications package already sealed inside the rocket on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Air Force Station, Fla. The Air Force Atlas B missile launched at 6:02 p.m. on Dec. 18 from Complex 11. On Dec. 19, people on Earth heard Eisenhower's holiday message-the first message broadcasted from space.
"This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite traveling in outer space," Eisenhower said. "My message is a simple one: Through this unique means I convey to you and all mankind, America's wish for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere."
The mission was another milestone in the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. Sputniks 1 and 2 had been launched a little over a year earlier.
It also was the first use of the Atlas rocket as a space launch vehicle. The Air Force's 9,000 pound Atlas rocket body was the heaviest object to have been launched into orbit. The broader military significance of the experiment was that it demonstrated the practical operation of a satellite radio-relay system with intercontinental capability.
Since then, Atlas and Delta have gone on to become one of the nation's space workhorses. Both now are built and operated by ULA, and are scheduled to launch dozens of missions over the next decade.
"ULA, along with its Air Force and NASA teammates, is proud of our many space achievements during our 50-plus years of launching rockets," said Michael Gass, president and chief executive officer of ULA. "Our passion for mission success is still as strong today as it was in the early days of the space program."
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