Still frame from video of Kuiper circling a can of WD40.

First Space-to-Earth Broadcast

“This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one. Through this unique means, I convey to you and all mankind America‚Äôs wish for peace on Earth and good will toward men everywhere.” President Dwight Eisenhower, December 19th, 1958

“Why is Kuiper orbiting this can of #WD40,” I bet you’re wondering. “What does this have to do with #Eisenhower?” Dear reader, today is the 59th anniversary of the first space-to-Earth broadcast, from a satellite which used an Atlas B #rocket as a launch vehicle. The first commercial use of @wd40brand was to protect the shiny outer skin of Atlas rockets from corrosion; the super-thin metal was prone to rusting.

59 years and 1 day ago, Earth’s very first communications #satellite was launched into orbit. Project SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) was a heckin’ top secret project developed by the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Department of Defense. Only 88 people had knowledge of the project and only 35 knew the whole story (which led some of the launch engineers to freak out when they saw their missile go “off course.”)

The original plan was for the satellite to carry a tape with one of the engineers reading a history book. At the last minute, the project director decided that this would be super boring and that it would be way cooler to broadcast a peaceful Christmas message from the President. By the time Ike’s tape arrived at Cape Canaveral, the rocket was already fueled up and on the launch pad, ready to go. They had to overwrite the tape by radio, which was pretty risky business (both technically and for the secrecy of the project.) Fortunately, it worked.

Once in orbit, one of the ground stations pressed “play” on the #DwightEisenhower message. Nothing happened. They kept trying for twelve more orbits, but it turned out the tape recorder had jammed. To their (presumably great) relief, the back-up system worked and the message was broadcast to the world (most of whom viewed it as a replay on TV.)

What message would you have broadcast to the world?

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