||Explorer I prepares for launch
It is Friday night: January 31, 1958. It is already two days past the planned launch
date for Explorer I. Since the 29th, a high-altitude "jet stream" (a river of fast flowing air) has
threatened to destroy the rocket if launched. The Army launch team has to launch Explorer
I tonight, or wait until after February 3, the planned date of the Navy's TV-3BU
We are standing at Complex 26, Pad A. The Jupiter-C rocket
with its payload, the Explorer I satellite, awaits launch. The gantry will be moved
away, and at 10:48 P.M., America will enter the Space Race when the rocket takes
The Explorer I is a thin, 30 pound satellite that carries a
special-purpose geiger counter developed by Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa.
This satellite will discover a belt of trapped radiation around the earth (later
named the "Van Allen Belt" in honor of Dr. Van Allen).