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That Time the US Accidentally Nuked Britain’s First Satellite


When it comes to nations with a long and rich history of space travel and exploration, Britain isn’t normally a country that comes to most people’s minds. However, they were the third country in the world to operate a satellite in orbit. It’s just a shame America ended up accidentally killing it just a few months later…

The satellite in question was the Ariel-1, which was developed as a joint-venture between the United States and Britain, with Britain designing and building the core systems of the satellite and NASA launching it into orbit via a Thor-Delta rocket.

The UK scientists first proposed the idea for Ariel-1 to NASA in 1959 after NASA made an offer to help fly the scientific equipment of other nations into space. Due to the close relationship between the two countries, details were easily and quickly worked out and by the following year, scientists in the UK were given the go ahead to start creating the instrumentation needed, while engineers in the US began work on the satellite that would house the equipment. On the 26th of April, 1962, the first international space effort ever was launched into space and Britain was operating its first satellite.

According to NASA, the instruments aboard Ariel-1 were intended to help “contribute to the current knowledge of the ionosphere” and its relationship with the Sun. More specifically, scientists were curious about how the ionosphere, a part of the Earth’s atmosphere made of particles charged by radiation from the Sun, worked. (For more on the ionosphere, see: Why Do Radio Signals Travel Farther at Night than in the Day?)

To accomplish its mission, Ariel-1 was loaded with a tape recorder for storing collected data, a device designed to measure solar radiation, and several instruments used to measure how the various particles in the ionosphere reacted and changed in response to external stimuli from the cosmos, most notably the Sun.

On July 9, 1962, mere weeks after Ariel-1 was put into orbit and had successfully begun transmitting data about the ionosphere back to Earth, British scientists were shocked when the sensors aboard Ariel-1 designed to measure radiation levels suddenly began to give wildly high readings. Initially, they assumed that the satellite’s instruments had failed or were otherwise just malfunctioning.

As it turned out, as Ariel-1 was happily free-falling around the Earth, the US military had decided to detonate an experimental 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon named Starfish-Prime in the upper atmosphere as part of Project Fish Bowl. The explosion, which happened on the other side of the planet to Ariel-1, sent a wave of additional radiation around the Earth that ultimately damaged some of the systems on Ariel-1, particularly its solar panels, ultimately killing it and about 1/3 of the rest of the satellites in low-Earth orbit at the time. This famously included the Telstar satellite, which was the first commercial communication relay satellite designed to transmit signals across the Atlantic.

The Telstar actually wasn’t in orbit at the time of the explosion, being put there the day after the Starfish-Prime detonation. However, the additional radiation created by the explosion took years to dissipate and was not anticipated by the designers of this particular satellite. The immediate result being the degradation of Telstar’s systems, particularly the failure of several transistors in the command system, causing it to stop working just a few months after being placed in orbit.

As to the purpose of the Starfish-Prime explosion, according to James Fleming, a history professor who combed through previously top-secret files and recordings concerning the blast, the U.S. military were working with scientist James Van Allen to see if nuclear explosions could influence the existing belts of radiation around the Earth. Van Allen apparently started working with the military to launch nukes into these belts the very same day he announced to the world that he’d discovered the belts, now known as the Van Allen radiation belts. Flemming noted of this,

“This is the first occasion I’ve ever discovered where someone discovered something and immediately decided to blow it up.”

He forgot to mention the obligatory, FOR SCIENCE!!!

They’re called the Van Allen belts, and they are a pair of dynamic regions of trapped radiation, separated by a void and held in place by the Earth’s magnetic field.lightyears.blogs.cnn.com

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A couple of Jokes

Texas Policing
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Two guys driving through Texas get pulled over by a state trooper. The cop walks up and taps on the driver’s window, the driver rolls it down, and the trooper smacks the driver in the head with his night stick.

“Ow!” says the driver. “Why’d you do that?”

The trooper says, “You’re in Texas, son. When I pull you over, you’ll have your license ready.”

The driver says, “I’m sorry, officer; I’m not from around here.”

The trooper writes the guy a ticket and gives his license back, then walks around to the car’s passenger side and taps on the window. The passenger rolls the window down, and the trooper smacks him with his night stick.

“Ow!” says the passenger. “What’d you do that for?”

The trooper says, “Just making your wish come true.”

“What the hell does that mean?” asks the guy.

“Two miles down the road, you were gonna say, “I wish that lousy assh*le would’ve tried that sh*t with me!”

Occupations
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Accountant – Someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Auditor – Someone who arrives after the battle and bayonets all the wounded.

Banker – The fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining and wants it back the minute it begins to rain. (Mark Twain)

Economist – An expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.

Statistician – Someone who is good with numbers but lacks the personality to be an accountant.

Actuary – Someone who brings a fake bomb on a plane, because that decreases the chances that there will be another bomb on the plane.

Programmer – Someone who solves a problem you didn’t know you had in a way you don’t understand.

Mathematician – A blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.

Lawyer – A person who writes a 10,000 word document and calls it a “brief.”

Psychologist – A man who watches everyone else when a beautiful girl enters the room.

Schoolteacher – A disillusioned woman who used to think she liked children.

Consultant – Someone who takes the watch off your wrist and tells you the time.

Diplomat – Someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

You Get What You Ask For
————————-

A group of previous kindergartners were trying very hard to become accustomed to the first grade. The biggest hurdle they faced was that the teacher insisted on NO baby talk!

“You need to use ‘Big People’ words,” she was always reminding them. She asked Chris what he had done over the weekend.

“I went to visit my Nana.”

“No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER. Use ‘Big People’ words!” She then asked Mitchell what he had done.

“I took a ride on a choo-choo.” She said “No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. You must remember to use ‘Big People’ words.” She then asked little Alec what he had done.

“I read a book,” he replied.

“That’s WONDERFUL!” the teacher said. “What book did you read?”

Alec thought real hard about it, then puffed out his chest with great pride, and said, “Winnie the SH*T.”

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Today in history 26 April 1865

John Wilkes Booth is killed when Union soldiers track him down to a Virginia farm 12 days after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Twenty-six-year-old Booth was one of the most famous actors in the country when he shot Lincoln during a performance at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., on the night of April 14. Booth was a Maryland native and a strong supporter of the Confederacy. As the war entered its final stages, Booth hatched a conspiracy to kidnap the president. He enlisted the aid of several associates, but the opportunity never presented itself. After the surrender of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, Booth changed the plan to a simultaneous assassination of Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward. Only Lincoln was actually killed, however. Seward was stabbed by Lewis Paine but survived, while the man assigned to kill Johnson did not carry out his assignment.

After shooting Lincoln, Booth jumped to the stage below Lincoln’s box seat. He landed hard, breaking his leg, before escaping to a waiting horse behind the theater. Many in the audience recognized Booth, so the army was soon hot on his trail. Booth and his accomplice, David Herold, made their way across the Anacostia River and headed toward southern Maryland. The pair stopped at Dr. Samuel Mudd’s home, and Mudd treated Booth’s leg. This earned Mudd a life sentence in prison when he was implicated as part of the conspiracy, but the sentence was later commuted. Booth found refuge for several days at the home of Thomas A. Jones, a Confederate agent, before securing a boat to row across the Potomac to Virginia.

After receiving aid from several Confederate sympathizers, Booth’s luck finally ran out. The countryside was swarming with military units looking for Booth, although few shared information since there was a $20,000 reward. While staying at the farm of Richard Garrett, Federal troops arrived on their search but soon rode on. The unsuspecting Garrett allowed his suspicious guests to sleep in his barn, but he instructed his son to lock the barn from the outside to prevent the strangers from stealing his horses. A tip led the Union soldiers back to the Garrett farm, where they discovered Booth and Herold in the barn. Herold came out, but Booth refused. The building was set on fire to flush Booth, but he was shot while still inside. He lived for three hours before gazing at his hands, muttering “Useless, useless,” as he died.

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Sexy Girl of the Day


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