Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Friday, December 24, 2004

How I caught "The Space Bug" and somehow started tracking satellites by radio

Sven Grahn, Sollentuna, Sweden

Trains, Locomotives and Aeroplanes

My technological preferences as a boy started with trains and locomotives and then moved to aeroplanes. An old fabric-covered biplane, a de Haviland Dragon, took me into the air for the first time and aviation seemed to be the closest to heaven that a boy could get. Spaceflight just seemed frightening after having seen the science fiction movie "Destination Moon" where the space travelers experience all sorts of horrifying adventures in their travel to the Moon. But, history had something different in store for my generation.

Catching the "space bug"

In November 1957, at the age of eleven, I finally caught the "space bug" when the Soviet Union launched "Lajka" into space. I then realized that human spaceflight and perhaps people traveling to the Moon would happen in my lifetime! My head spun with the thought: "I will live to see this happen." Just a few days earlier I had seen Sputnik 1, or what everyone thought was Sputnik 1. I had been with my father at a gas station in central Stockholm filling up his model 1954 VW "Beetle" when the bright twinkling light spot generated by the last stage of the rocket that launched Sputnik swept across the sky. It made a deep and lasting impression.

My first "hands-on" contact with space technology came in the summers of 1962-64 when I worked as a rocket assembly technician during the sounding rocket launchings from Northern Sweden in cooperation with NASA to investigate the so-called noctilucent clouds. This was a great experience for a teenager, but it ended when Sweden joined the European Space Research Organization and the makeshift summer rocket base manned by grammar school and university students was abandoned in favor of professional operations at ESRO:s new base in Kiruna in the northernmost corner of Sweden. In October 1964 I started studying for my Masters degree at the School of Engineering Physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. I was longing for a new "hands-on" connection with space technology.


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