Features > Belts and braces

31 January 2018 | by Guy Consolmagno

Belts and braces

Belts and braces

Across the universe


Wednesday marked the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of Explorer 1, the first US spacecraft to orbit the Earth. I was five years old; it affected my dreams and aspirations – and my education in science, over the next 20 years.


As the story goes, the American rocket and satellite were thrown together in 90 days to answer the launch of Russia’s Sputnik satellite the previous October … and the disaster of our Vanguard rocket, which had blown up on the launch pad. Explorer 1’s most notable achievement was the discovery of the Van Allen belts.


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