Today is Labor Day here in the U.S., Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown across the world, and, in one community in my home state of Wisconsin, it’s the anniversary of the day they got a visit from a Soviet satellite.
Well, kind of.
This was back in the early days of the Space Race.
The USSR had launched a satellite known in the West as Sputnik IV in May 1960.
It was the country’s first space capsule with a pressurized cabin, to start to test whether their crafts could safely bring humans into space.
Sputnik IV even had a mannequin nicknamed Ivan Ivanovitch inside, wearing a space suit.
After a four-day space mission, the Soviets prepared to bring the craft back to Earth, so they could see how it had performed.
Only there was a bug in the guidance system, and instead of lowering back down, it went further into orbit.
It wasn’t until September 6, 1962 that the craft finally came down, mostly over – and probably into – Lake Michigan.
But in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, residents spotted several Sputnik fragments, including a roughly 21 pound piece in the middle of the street.
Eventually those pieces were returned to the USSR, but the locals wanted to remember their part in the history of space.
In addition to marking the spot where they’d found the pieces of Sputnik IV, they eventually organized SputnikFest, a fun and freewheeling festival to celebrate how sometimes the weirdness of the world can just drop right into your town.
The slogan they use to invite visitors, by the way: “Sputnik landed here… why don’t you?”
Today in 1870, Louisa Swaim cast a ballot in Laramie, Wyoming, the first woman to do so in a place where women had the same political and civil rights as men.
There’s a statue of her in Laramie that was dedicated today in 2008.
So go make some history – or her-story – today.
Everybody else seems to be!
About Sputnik (Rahr-West Art Museum)