“Telstar” was the first song I ever hear that was a “Space” song. The record was named after the AT&T communications satellite Telstar, which went into orbit in July 1962. The song was released five weeks later on 17 August 1962. “Telstar” is estimated to have sold at least five million copies worldwide.
As I found on Wikipedia, this novelty record was intended to evoke the dawn of the space age, complete with sound effects that were meant to sound “space-like”. Sputnick, the first satellite to orbit earth, was launched in 1957 by the Russians. The word satellite became part of our language, possibly as quickly as the word Facebook has become part of our language. Each is a talisman of it generation.
At that time, most “Space” songs were not about technology . They usually tackled the real mystery that confounds humans – romance. Songs like “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Blue Moon” were popular and became part of the culture of the Baby Boom generation. And just to be clear, I am part of that generation, and to prevent a flood of emails, I know “Blue Moon” was written in 1934, but the sixties version was stellar.
In 1961, President Kennedy announced the United States would send a man to the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade. It was a call to action. That announcement began the race to the moon. It kindled a spirit of innovation, a science and engineering competitive movement that was as unique to those times as its music.
As September 11 was a call to action, so was the race to the moon in 1961. In my business, I still hear, we have to get back to the time when a compelling vision like going to the moon will overtake our nation . Voices for change in education tell us we need to inspire this generation. Create a national call to action. Get students and teachers, parents and communities excited again about science and engineering, like the Apollo Program did for the Baby Boomers.
For those of you who have children and grand children, don’t most of you read to them, and sing with them? I have a simple call to action – more like a request. Find a book about space and read it and maybe even read it to your children or grandchildren.
Rocket Boys , Homer Hickam’s book is about a high school science project that chartered Hickman’s life time love of rocketry. It was this book that inspired me to create the Student Launch Project at New Mexico State University ( www.launchnm.com) . It is a program that now involves over 50 school districts in New Mexico, all three research universities and five community colleges. Students in this program design experiments that we launch into space annually from Spaceport America. This year we will launch on April 1, 2011.
Rocket Boys helped me understand, in order to inspire a student; the project has to compete for their attention. The project not only has to compete but it also has to keep their attention. Furthermore, it also has to involve their friends, because students keep each other going. They also tell their stories over social media like youtube and facebook, so we have integrated these tools into the project as well. We need it all to keep them involved, inspired. They actually inspire themselves. And like President Kennedy, we need to give them a goal. Work hard, compete, and you may get your experiment to space. Our annual statewide competition has 96 submissions to date. There are 4 categories of competition. We are starting small and we are involving students, teachers and the community.
Students are asking questions unique to this generation. For example, one group wants to know if the radiation in the upper atmosphere will effect or change a Compact Disc (CD) that we launch on a sounding rocket. Before I let the experiment fly, I will ask more than one group of scientists with NASA, and the Air Force to work with these students to see if we can refine the experiment to survive the heat of re -entry, the vibration of launch, and whether the exposure period in the upper atmosphere will be of sufficient duration to produce results we can attribute to radiation alone. Oh, did I mention this is a middle school experiment?
Space Music. I wonder which songs will be on the CD we launch.
Note: On the April 17th article comment, I should have said the first humans in space.