What the sky looked like on 1958
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1958 was a landmark year for technology and culture.
The year started off with the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, falling out of orbit in January. As one satellite came down, another went up. Also in January, the United States successfully launched Explorer 1 into Earth’s orbit. It was the first successful satellite launch for the United States.
1958 was also the year that the U.S. established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA would go on to lead the world in space exploration, culminating in the famous Apollo missions that placed human beings on the Moon. In another major technological achievement, the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, was the first vessel to reach the North Pole while submerged.
There were some major cultural events that transpired this year as well. On July 12, the Beatles (called the Quarrymen at the time) had their first recording session. They recorded a cover of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” and “In Spite of All the Danger” by Paul McCartney and George Harrison.
As historic as the Beatles’ first recording session was, another cultural phenomenon surpasses it. In the shadow of the Cold War, Harvey Lavan “Van” Cliburn, Jr., of Texas, won the inaugural quadrennial International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow at the age of twenty-three. Van Cliburn played so well that the Soviet audience gave him a standing ovation that lasted for several minutes and he returned home to the United States as a hero, eventually having a major piano competition named for him. The Van Cliburn International Competition is held every four years in Fort Worth, Texas. For the rest of his life, Van Cliburn was an ambassador of good will between the Soviet and American people, proving a little light and hope in an otherwise tension-filled period of history.
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