America’s First Communications Satellite: Project Echo by NASA
This vintage recording recently found in the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory audio archives comes from America’s first successful communications satellite, Project Echo. The project involved bouncing radio signals off a 10-story-high, aluminum-coated balloon orbiting the Earth in 1960. This form of “passive” satellite communication – which they dubbed a “satelloon” — was an idea conceived by an engineer from NASA’s Langley Research Center and a project managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. JPL sent and received signals through two of its 85-foot-diameter antennas at the West Coast Goldstone tracking station in the Mojave Desert.
The first transmission was sent on Aug. 12, 1960, between Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., and Goldstone. This recording was released as part of a technical report on Dec. 1, 1960. It includes a greeting from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, explaining how Echo fits into the U.S. program of peaceful space research accessible to other countries, and a message from then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson imagining a “not too distant future when one man, one program, can be seen and heard simultaneously in every living room of the world.”[soundcloud url=”https://soundcloud.com/nasa/projectrelay” params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]