Tuesday, October 02, 2007


From The Washington Post:

News flash, Oct. 4, 1957: The Russians have launched a tiny moon. It is an artificial satellite, 184 pounds, a pumpkin-size sphere polished to a shine. The Russians call it Sputnik. As it passes over the United States it transmits a signal -- surely the most ominous beep-beep-beep that any American has ever heard.

"The communists were going to rule," recalled Homer Hickam, who was 14 when he saw Sputnik in the sky above his home town of Coalwood, W.Va., and who would go on to become a spacecraft designer. "And the proof of this was this shiny little bauble that flew around the world every 90 minutes."

Rocket engineer Julian Davidson, dismayed at being beaten into space, remembers a radio commercial that night -- an ad for a new Gillette razor. "The Russians just launched a satellite," he said, "and I'm listening to an ad for a great technology the Americans had for making razor blades."

Ironically it was America's skill at making razor blades which would propel us into the lead in the space race and leave the soviets in the dust. In any contest of innovation a nation which embraces the free market will always leave a command economy in the dust.