Old News: Satellite Communication

Lauren Frias, co-editor-in-chief

Christmas sale commercials and catchy holiday tunes fill the air, rounding out the overall festive ambiance of the season. However, few people pay attention to the actual mechanism that contributes to making this circulation of holiday cheer: the communications relay satellite.

On this day in 1958, Project SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) launched a satellite into orbit with the intentions of creating a communications relay system in outer space, thus allowing for the first transmitted message from space to Earth. In addition, the United States managed to also send their first fully-functional orbiting mechanism via the American Atlas rocket, the launch vehicle that transported the satellite to space.

Once the orbit of the satellite was successfully achieved, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower broadcasted a world-wide message, which he recorded prior to the launch of the Atlas rocket then attached to the systemís processors. The message goes as follows, ìThis is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you via a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one: Through this unique means I convey to you and all mankind, Americaís wish for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere.î

The success of Project SCORE was two-fold. Not only did it solidify the potential of the countryís space program and technology at the time by maintaining orbit, but also placed the U.S. at a technological par with the Soviet Union, a goal widely strived for under the circumstances of the Cold War. Though Eisenhower described the mission as peaceful, the underlying implication was to show the nationís capability to deliver nuclear weapons from outside of the atmosphere.

Though the project harbored phenomenal gravity in the development of extraterrestrial communication, it only served a nominal purpose to the overall objective. The orbit of the satellite was intended to last 20 days, which was ultimately exceeded when the satellite continued to function for another 15 days after the anticipated length of operation.

Though some intentions of the program lie contrary to the good tidings of the season, it is important to recognize and appreciate its significant contribution to the modern ease of communication. Project SCORE kickstarted the advancement of communication technology, allowing the transfer of electronic seasonís greetings at this festive time of year.