50 years old satellite still in orbit

Vanguard 1, the oldest surviving artificial Earth satellite, turned 50 years old yesterday.  Just imagine, 197,000 orbits around Earth, completed more than 10 billion kilometres of travel!  Up there, it has outlived almost all of the human who created it.

Vanguard1

Vanguard 1 was very light, about 1.5 kg.  It was the 4th artificial satellite to reach orbit, after Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, 2 and America’s Explorer 1.  Vanguard 1’s current orbit ranges from ~ 650 to 3,800 km in altitude.

Vanguard 1 was the first artificial earth satellite powered by solar cells, and its small suite of instruments provided unprecedented information on Earth’s size and shape, air density and temperature ranges, and the micrometeorite density in space.

However, in 1964, all its experiments and transmitter fell silent.  Since then, there was no longer any communication with it.  Vanguard 1 now just remains as the oldest piece of space junk still in orbit.

Maybe one of these days, we may be able to bring the satellite home, bringing it back down to Earth, to study the long-term environmental effects of space on a spacecraft, which can be very helpful in designing future spacecraft.

Source: msnbc

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~ by thChieh on March 18, 2008.

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