From Abraham Lincoln to Sputnik to the B-52s

Today's Recon, Weather and Communication Satellites are descendents of Sputnik

Lincoln liked Lowe's Balloon But Some of his Generals Did Not

On This Date in History:  President Abraham Lincoln observed a balloon demonstration near Washington DC on this date in 1861 which was intended to show the value of using balloons to gain military intelligence on the battlefield. Both sides tried them for awhile but abandoned the practice after a few years when it was decided that they were too dangerous and unreliable. An advocate was Thaddeus S C Lowe who was in charge of the Union balloon corps. But he resigned after his pay was cut 40% when Union Commanders Joe Hooker and Ambrose Burnside were convinced that balloons gave inaccurate information. Bright guys, those Union Commanders. In the 20th century, aerial reconnaissance became a staple of military intelligence information.

Explorer I

In an ironic twist…On This Date in 1957…the Soviet Union put the first satellite into orbit. It was called Sputnik I but also was known as a “baby moon.” This was because it was a small round sphere that orbited around the earth putting out a little beeping noise via radio waves. Americans being as they are turned it into a political football and Democrats charged the Republican Eisenhower administration with allowing the Soviets to get ahead in technology. It was fearsome because it showed that they had missle technology to deliver nuclear weapons or even build space platfoms from which they could drop bombs on the US!   There also was the question of using a satellite as aerial reconnaissance…something Union generals Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker (For whom inaccurtely say the slang for prostitute is named)  and Ambrose E. Burnside (for whom sideburns are named)  had tossed aside nearly 100 years before.  So, President Eisenhower started leaning on the space program and by January 31,1958, the US successfully launched its own satellite, Explorer I and the space race was on.

Hmmmm....A Sputnik/B-52's connection?

This all really went back to 1952 when the International Council of Scientific Unions established July 31, 1957 to December 31, 1958 as the International Geophysical Year since scientists knew that solar activity would be at its height during that time. They used the opportunity to promote putting up artificial satellites around the earth. The Americans started off with their Vanguard program which was to put a 3.5 pound object into orbit. But the Soviets beat the Yanks to the punch with the beachball size, 184 pound Sputnik. Now I’m not sure what Sputnik did except scare people and get the Americans off their keesters and prove that the theory of satellites was practical. They turned to Werner Von Braun to develop the Explorer program. Unlike the Soviets and their mini radio station, the Americans included a small data collection system and Explorer I not only showed that “anything you can do, I can do better,” but also discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the earth, which took the name of its primary investigator, James Van Allen. The Van Allen Belt later was displayed prominently in “there’s a moon in the sky (called the moon)” by the B-52’s. Now that is progress…Sputnik to Explorer to the B-52’s.

Weather Bottom Line:  We have a weather pattern that looks simliar to the winter.  There is a big fat low spinning around to our Northeast.  Think of it as having spokes on a wheel.  These spokes I refer to as Vortlobes, or lobes of disturbed weather resulting from a pool of cold air aloft.  As these lobes rotate around, they tend to produce clouds as they proceed, particularly in the daytime.  In the winter, this often results in snow showers.  As it stands, our air is so dry at the surface, we don’t get much rain from the passing disturbances but the temperatures do get chilly with the cloud cover but the mercury jumps in the dry air when sunshine is added.  This pattern will slowly change this week as the upper low moves east and a surface high to our west moves eastward.  Toward the end of the week, we will get into a more southerly flow and temperatures will respond by still having relatively cool to mild nights but afternoon highs will get into the low 80’s.


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