Québec / Canada and the simplest satellite, the PS-1 spacecraft, in other words Sputnik 1: An overview of what was published in the French language Québec press between 5 and 12 October 1957, Part 4

A somewhat inaccurate (life-size?) replica of Sputnik I on display in Prague, Czechoslovakia, as part of an exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Anon., “Modèle du satellite russe.” Le Nouvelliste, 1.

Good morning and welcome to this 4th and last (I hope) part of this article on the media coverage surrounding the launch of the first artificial satellite, in October 1957. I am just as surprised as you are, believe it, by the magnitude of said cover. Your feet will not get cold, I assure you, and... Cover, cold, feet. Gag. Sigh, never mind.

You will be delighted to note (read?) that the 9 October editions of 2 Québec dailies, L’Action Catholique of Québec and Le Devoir of Montréal, gave added precision to the words of Dostaler O’Leary, mentioned in the 3rd part of this article, in his aux quatre points CARDINAUX column, published in the 9 October edition of La Patrie, another Montréal daily. According to the respected journalist David Norman McIntosh, of the Canadian Press, a news agency which could not be more respectable, when some high-ranking people in the American defence community scoffed at Soviet claims that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was ahead of the United States in jet aviation, in the development of guided missiles and in interplanetary space travel, senior Canadians tried to convince them that these statements were not implausible.

In September 1954, for example, heads of department in the Department of National Defence could not be clearer that the USSR was constantly gaining ground in defence. This warning was ignored.

In October 1955, while in Pakistan after a short friendly visit to Moskva, the first official visit of a Secretary of State for External Affairs to the USSR and the first (?) official visit of a member of a Western cabinet since the start of the Cold War, Lester Bowles “Mike” Pearson told reporters that Western countries had to stop thinking that the USSR was a country of peasants. He stated that he had been impressed by its energy and power.

And no, Pearson was not a Soviet mole who betrayed his country for years, no more than Egerton Herbert Norman, a Canadian diplomat a little too much to the left for some American and Canadian Homo sapiens a little too much to the right who saw Soviet moles even in their coffee. The tragedy in all of this was / is that Norman, an innocent but harassed man, then ambassador to Egypt, took his life in April 1957. He was only 47 years old. Many people in Canada were horrified, and with good reason. The 1950s were not a happy decade. Paranoia reigned in many government departments and agencies. Many innocent Canadians needlessly lost the jobs and the people responsible never had to answer for their actions, but back to McIntosh’s article…

Towards the end of October 1955, the journalist recalled, during a speech in Montréal to members of the Canadian Industrial Preparedness Association, the founding chairperson of the Defence Research Board (DRB), Ormond McKillop Solandt, warned the countries of the free world. If efforts to increase the number and competence of scientists and engineers in these same free countries were not successful, world peace would be threatened – and Canada’s prosperity would be lost.

Interviewed in June 1957, the second chairperson of the DRB, Adam Hartley Zimmerman, argued that Western countries had to train more scientists. If they did not, the USSR would take the lead, and for a long time.

According to some senior Canadian, who spoke on 8 October on condition of anonymity, the aforementioned launches of an intercontinental ballistic missile and of an artificial satellite in August and October 1957 had a lesson to offer: a lack of money should not hamper the work of researchers in Western countries.

McIntosh concluded his article by recalling that Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, the unsavoury first secretary of the central committee of the Kommunisticheskaya Partiya Sovetskogo Soyuza, in other words the Communist Party of the USSR, proclaimed loud and clear that piloted aircraft were of no use against missiles. The age of the bomber was over. These types of aircraft belonged in museums, said (typed?) the Soviet statesman.

McIntosh, meanwhile, reminded his readers that the federal government had spent and was spending hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a supersonic bomber interceptor, the Avro CF-105 Arrow, mentioned in Part 1 of this article, which would not be delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1961 or so…

An interesting detail, if only for me, L’Action catholique offered itself the luxury of presenting to its readers, on its first page, on 9 October, a photograph of a somewhat inaccurate (life-size?) reproduction of the Soviet artificial satellite put on display in Prague, Czechoslovakia, as part of an exhibition which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. This was obviously the photograph which was at the beginning of this 4th part from this article. And yes, I realise very well that the reference to the photograph at the beginning of this part of our article mentioned the daily Le Nouvelliste of 10 October, which also published said photograph.

Later that day on 9 October, Carlyle Smith Beals, the Dominion Astronomer, remember? Sigh. Beals, say (type?) I, told reporters that the stars visible in the photographs taken that morning by Arthur A. “Art” Griffin, the researcher in residence at the observatory in Newbrook, Alberta, an experimental station of the Stellar Physics Division of the Dominion Observatory, photographs mentioned in part 3 of this article say I, would allow researchers, Canadian and American it seemed, to establish the exact position of the satellite at an equally exact moment, which would allow these same researchers to establish the orbit of the satellite with greater precision. The more photographs there were, the more precision there would be in the orbit.

Beals took the opportunity to mention that Dominion Observatory personnel had observed the Soviet satellite in the early morning hours of 9 October.

On 10 October, at around 4:50 a.m., local time, the aforementioned Griffin managed to photograph the Soviet artificial satellite a second time. A person mentioned in part 3 of this article, John Mason “Jack” Grant, a colleague of Griffin’s based at the observatory in Meanook, Alberta, another experimental station in the Dominion Observatory’s Stellar Physics Division, did the same around the same time, using a highly sophisticated camera usually used to photograph meteors identical to the one used by Griffin. Two teachers from Meanook and 3 journalists from elsewhere spotted the satellite as it continued on its mad run through the boundless skies.

That same 10 October, a little after 6:50 minutes, local time, 7 civilian and military personnel, both Canadian and American, stationed at the Churchill Research Rocket Launch Base, not far from Churchill, Manitoba, observed and photographed the Soviet satellite. This small group included Peter S. Beadle, director of the Defence Research Board’s Northern Defence Research Laboratory, as well as Lieutenant-Colonel John T. Lorenz, commander of the United States Army’s First Arctic Test Center. The data collected was quickly sent to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in the United States.

Again and again this endless 10 October, La Patrie published a second editorial devoted to the first artificial satellite. Journalist, essayist, editor and author Roger Duhamel wrote ironically that the USSR seemed to find it easier to achieve this great achievement of Marxism than to feed, house or clothe the people of the country. Was the average Muscovite pleased by this, asked Duhamel?

Duhamel further stated that the Soviet satellite opened the door to international law issues concerning the airspace / air sovereignty of countries around the world. Countries might object to the passage of satellites over their territory. Duhamel mentioned (seriously?) the construction of possible surveillance sites with the function of intercepting fraudsters and smugglers. He also wondered (seriously?) whether it would be necessary to create an orbital traffic service in order to avoid collisions and traffic jams. Once it had whetted its appetites, said (typed?) Duhamel, humanity would not sit on its laurels. There could very well be flights to the Moon and Mars. Flags could be planted. Who said flag, said conquest. Who said conquest, said belligerence. More or less seriously, I think, Duhamel was saying (typing) that an ambitious country might consider moving its surplus population to the Moon.

Should we laugh or cry about what was happening on Earth, concluded Duhamel in 2 stages? If satellites like the one launched by the USSR were harmless, unless they fell on our heads, satellites capable of wiping out a country or a continent would sooner or later be launched, endangering the very fate of humanity.

Duhamel also indicated he was surprised by the zeal of researchers whose achievements were useless, if not harmful. Why didn’t they devote their visibly large gifts to improving the well-being of the world’s population, often starving, freezing cold and almost naked? “Is this evangelical vocabulary too ancient to be heard in laboratories?”

A question just as valid in the 21st century as it was in 1957 if I may type so. In fact, what will we really need in 2024, food, heat and clothing for the 8.1 billion Homo sapiens on Earth or television reports showing a handful of Homo sapiens laughing their head off in electric sports cars on the planet Mars? Just sayin’.

Another comment, that one much more relevant, appeared in the 11 October edition of the daily Le Soleil. That comment…

Raoul Hunter, “–.” Le Soleil, 11 October 1957, 4.

Raoul Hunter, “–.” Le Soleil, 11 October 1957, 4.

May I be permitted a comment? Many thanks. Doesn’t the artificial satellite visible in this editorial cartoon by Raoul Hunter, one of the most famous and respected Québec / Canadian cartoonists of his time, resemble the somewhat inaccurate (life size?) reproduction exhibited at Prague, as part of the aforementioned exhibition which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution? Just sayin’.

Hunter’s somewhat sassy drawing illustrated how Soviet engineering had managed to place an artificial satellite into orbit. Said success was based on forced labour and enslavement, in all likelihood, of the people of the USSR and of those involved in the project. It also found its foundations in the work of foreign researchers.

And the fact was that around 175 German engineers and 2 000 technicians who had helped develop the (in)famous A-4 / V-2 ballistic missile during the Second World War were transported to the USSR, more or less at gunpoint, with wife and child, if I am not mistaken, in 1946. These people did not leave their communist paradise until around 1952-53.

As useful as the work of these non-voluntary workers was, the fact was that the Soviet space program owed its successes primarily to the toil of Soviet engineers and technicians supervised in large part by Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, the chief designer of the Korolev R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile, mentioned in other parts of this article, whose name was a state secret, an individual mentioned in February 2019, September 2019 and September 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

Albéric Boivin, professor in the Département de Physique of the Université Laval in Québec, Québec, explaining on the blackboard the workings of a rocket, in this case a German A-4 / V-2 missile from the Second World War. The lower right diagram showed an American Martin Vanguard rocket. Gilles Méthot, “Notre effort scientifique devra être l’objet de revisions [sic] considérables.” Le Soleil, 11 October 1957, 3.

Albéric Boivin, professor at the Département de Physique of the Université Laval in Québec, Québec, explaining on the blackboard the workings of a rocket, in this case a German A-4 / V-2 missile from the Second World War. The lower right diagram showed an American Martin Vanguard rocket. Gilles Méthot, “Notre effort scientifique devra être l’objet de revisions [sic] considérables.” Le Soleil, 11 October 1957, 3.

The 11 October edition of the daily Le Soleil also contained a very interesting article, the result of a meeting with Albéric Boivin, holder of the optics chair and professor in the Département de Physique of the Université Laval, in Québec. This well-known and respected researcher had been interested in astronautics since the early 1950s, or even the late 1940s. Indeed, he was a member in good standing of the British Interplanetary Society, a well-known and respected organisation if there was one, was mentioned in a February 2019 issue of our you know what.

Boivin first explained what a satellite was. He then described the operation of a typical multistage rocket, which the Soviet rocket was not, in the conventional sense, you will recall. Boivin might, I repeat might, have suggested to the journalist interviewing him that the Soviet satellite had taken off somewhere in the north of the USSR, presumably from the island of Kolguyev, in the Barents Sea, a good distance from the coast of Norway.

Boivin was wrong about the site of the Soviet launching base. The 5-y Nauchno-Issledovatel’skiy Ispytatel’nyy Poligon, or 5th research and development test site, was in fact relatively close to Töretam, Qazaq Keñestik Socïalïstik Respwblïkasi, or Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR, today’s Kazakhstan.

The Québec researcher did not doubt that the Soviet satellite weighed just under 85 kilograms (about 185 pounds), as Soviet spokespersons had pointed out. He did not believe, as some British researchers believed, that it tipped the scales at just under 8.5 kilograms (about 18.5 pounds), which was like saying that someone somewhere had put a decimal point at the wrong place.

Boivin supported his claims by recalling that Soviet spokespersons had indicated in the past that their satellite would weigh a little over 80 kilograms (approximately 180 pounds). He also mentioned that the USSR had developed a rocket engine capable of producing a thrust of 125 tonnes (American? Imperial? Metric?). A 90 (American? Imperial? Metric?) tonne rocket equipped with such an engine could easily place a satellite weighing just over 80 kilograms (about 180 pounds) into orbit. The rocket in question was most likely a modified version of the Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile.

The American Martin Vanguard rocket had a far more modest performance. It could put in orbit a mass of less than 10 kilograms (less than 22 pounds), and this at an altitude much lower than that which the Soviet missile could reach.

In fact, each of the 5, yes, yes, 5 rocket motors which launched the R-7 missile had a thrust of about 83 metric tonnes (81.7 imperial tons / 91.5 US tons / 814 kilonewtons). The R-7 also weighed around 280 metric tonnes (around 276 imperial tons / 309 American tons) at launch – 3 times the figure mentioned by Boivin and other Western experts. The R-7 was a nasty firecracker, but I digress.

Boivin wondered whether the relative lag of the United States towards the USSR in the matter of missiles was partly due to the fact that there was a duplication, not to say a triplication of the efforts launched in that country, a consequence of the pernicious rivalry which divided the United States Air Force (USAF), United States Army and United States Navy. In 1957, firms having contracts with these services were indeed working at top speed in order to develop and / or produce their respective medium-range missiles:

- the Douglas SM-75 Thor,

- the Chrysler SM-78 Jupiter, and

- the Vought SSM-N-8 Regulus.

And yes, you read correctly. The name Chrysler typed 2 lines above referred to Chrysler Corporation, a major American automobile manufacturer mentioned a few times in our blog / bulletin / thingee since January 2019. I bet you didn’t know it also manufactured weapons of mass destruction at one point – a case of turning plowshares into swords, if I may say so.

The Regulus differed profoundly from the Thor and Jupiter in that it was an airplane-like cruise missile, not a cylindrical-shaped ballistic missile. These 3 missiles entered service in 1958, 1961 and 1955.

Boivin also mentioned that there might be duplication within the same service. The USAF indeed financed the simultaneous development of 2 intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Convair SM-65 Atlas and Martin SM-68 Titan, which entered service in 1959 and 1962.

According to Boivin, the relative lag of the United States should give rise to serious reflections, and even considerable revisions, in the philosophy and conduct of scientific endeavour in the Western world. The possibility that this world was losing its foothold in this area was nothing to cheer about.

A very tough scientific and technological race had begun, stated Boivin. Western countries could not afford to be left behind in the slightest. This being said (typed?), American researchers were not sitting idly by. In that regard, Boivin mentioned the Aeronutronics Far Side sounding rocket, carried at high altitude by a balloon. And yes, we are talking about the Aeronutronics Division of Ford Motor Company, another American automobile giant mentioned several times in our you know what, since December 2018. By the way, none of the 6 Far Side shots performed in 1957 gave the expected results.

Boivin also mentioned the work which would lead to the creation of an American nuclear-powered rocket, work that ultimately lead nowhere, something our species can be very pleased with. I wonder if he referring to the atomic / nuclear pulse rocket mentioned in a July 2020 issue of our yadda yadda yadda. The world of the nuclear industry was not / is not exactly a cheery one. But back to our story.

In the early morning of 11 October, 15 or so researchers from the Dominion Observatory followed a shiny object, sometimes visible to the naked eye and then a little larger than Alpha Ursæ Minoris, for about 6 minutes. It was, according to Miriam Seymour Burland, the first and only female astronomer and astrophysicist at said observatory, the third stage of the rocket which had put the Soviet satellite into orbit. The staff of said observatory intended to keep guard in the following days, in the hope of visualising the celestial visitor, the real one, the good one, the satellite.

You will of course remember that the thingee observed was in fact the central stage of the Soviet rocket.

With the level of perplexity on your face reaching a critical threshold, let me bring it back to where it should be by pointing out that Alpha Ursæ Minoris was / is a star that people living in the northern regions of the Northern Hemisphere were / are familiar with. It is the polar / pole star. Why didn’t I say (type?) so in the previous paragraph, say ye, my reading friend? The fact is that I like to make you hit the roof every now and then.

If I may digress, which is not something I do often, Seymour’s career was remarkable to say the least. She joined the staff of the Astrophysics Division of the Dominion Observatory in 1927. During the 1930s, she held senior positions at the Ottawa Center of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, in Ottawa, Ontario, y including a term of president. Seymour was also a member of 3 teams of scientists which observed important solar eclipses in Canada in 1932, 1954 and 1962.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, Seymour served as an education and information liaison officer, preparing reports, arranging public visits and responding to inquiries. Over the next decade, she served on the Canadian national committee of the International Astronomical Union in Paris, France. Over the decades, Seymour is a regular contributor to the prestigious Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

Seymour retired in 1967. This pioneer died in April 1996, at the age of 93.

The aforementioned center stage of the rocket which had taken the Soviet artificial satellite into orbit received attention at a meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society in London, England, not Ontario, France or Australia, on the evening of 11 October. Basing his statement on photographs taken in Scotland, a lecturer at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, in Glasgow, Scotland, Michael William Ovenden, declared that said Soviet carrier rocket, still in orbit around our planet, was no longer behind the satellite. It was now in front of it.

An interesting detail, if only for yours truly, Ovenden became professor of astronomy in the Department of Geophysics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in December 1966, but back to our rocket.

When asked, while visiting the aforementioned Griffin, in Newbrook, it seemed, Dominion Observatory astronomer Ian Halliday wondered if the Soviet carrier rocket was not in fact outstripping the artificial satellite since it had been placed in orbit. Was that the case? I really do not know.

As promised in the first part of this article, it is without any further delay that yours truly puts an end to this monstrous peroration on Sputnik I.

The very first artificial satellite transmitted its radio signals until its batteries were exhausted on 26 October 1957. It re-entered the atmosphere on 4 January 1958, but did not survive the experiment. Pity. The main stage of the R-7 missile which had put Sputnik I into orbit had done the same in December 1957.

Would you believe that the collection of the wonderful Canada Aviation and Space Museum includes a life-size reproduction / replica of the PS-1 spacecraft, otherwise known as Sputnik I, handed over in September 1977 by the Soviet ambassador to Canada, Alexandre Nikolayevich Yakovlev, an idealist / intellectual / thinker who was a good friend of Prime Minister Joseph Philippe Pierre Yves Elliott Trudeau, a character mentioned in June, August and November 2019 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee?

Said reproduction was part of Kosmos ‘77, the most imposing exhibition of Soviet space equipment held until then in a Western country (21 reproductions of satellites and space capsules) presented in Vancouver, in March and April 1977, at the Centennial Museum / HR Macmillan Planetarium, and in Ottawa, between May and September, at the National Museum of Science and Technology, today’s Canada’s Science and Technology Museum, a sister / brother museum of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.

Goodbye, my reading friend, and have a good week.

The author of these lines wishes to thank all the people who sent information. Any mistake contained in this article is my fault, not theirs.

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Rénald Fortier