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Telstar beams the first live television shows between Europe and the United States, including scenes from the Seattle World's Fair, on July 23, 1962.
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On July 23, 1962, the Telstar satellite relays the word's
first exchange of live television shows by Europe and the United States.
Included in the 20-minute broadcast are live images broadcast from the Seattle World's
Fair. It is estimated that more than 200 million viewers on both sides of the
Atlantic watch this historic telecast.
A New Era of Communication
Telstar 1 was built by AT&T at Bell Telephone
Laboratories, and was launched on July 10, 1962. The satellite was the first
privately sponsored space launch at Cape Canaveral. Telstar 1 was a 34.5-inch-diameter sphere that weighed over 170 pounds and was powered in space by solar
On the day of the launch, a brief test was made of the
satellite's transmission capabilities. During its sixth orbit, television
images of a flag outside the Andover Earth Station -- the United States ground
station in Andover, Maine -- were relayed to the Pleumeur-Bodou station in northwestern France. The television image was
accompanied a recording of America the
Beautiful and The Star Spangled
Unlike NASA’s Echo satellite, which was launched in 1960 and
only acted as a passive reflector of radio signals, Telstar was first
communications satellite that could actively direct and amplify telephone
calls. Hours after Telstar’s launch, one of the first long-distance phone calls
in space-age history took place between Senator Warren Magnuson (1905-1989) in
Washington D.C., and Governor Albert Rosellini (1910-2011) and Seattle World's
Fair general manager Ewen Dingwall (1913-1996) atop the Space Needle.
Fairgoers listened in on the six-minute conversation over
the fair’s public address system, as Rosellini greeted Magnuson and thanked
NASA and AT&T for launching the historic satellite. Ewen Dingwall got on
the line next, and was clearly excited by the clarity of Magnuson’s voice. Dingwall
exclaimed, “Senator, you sound as though you’re calling from the foot of the
Space Needle, instead of back in Washington D.C. This is what you call a good
connection. I think it is astounding” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July
11, 1962). Even after they hung up, Dingwall continued to marvel at the quality
of the reception.
Live from Seattle
On July 23, the Telstar satellite made history again when
the United States and Europe exchanged planned television programs for the
first time. The 20-minute “America to Europe” program included live broadcasts
of a Cubs-Phillies baseball game, Colonel John Glenn speaking from Cape
Canaveral, a crowded Detroit expressway, a view of Mount Rushmore, and best of
all for those in Seattle -- scenes of Century 21.
Century 21 received 90 seconds of air time, broadcasting
sights and sounds from around the fair. A panoramic view from atop the Space
Needle came first, followed by glimpses of Japanese Bon Odori, Spanish
Flamenco, and Hawaiian Hula dancers. European viewers also saw a Pedicab in
action, as well as a young boy enjoying a Belgian Waffle.
KING-5 TV was chosen to represent all Pacific Northwest
networks and Charles Herring was the announcer for the Seattle segment. The
television station used six cameras, three mobile units and a crew of 35 to
create the segment.
Televisions were set up throughout the grounds, so that
fairgoers could watch both the American and European broadcasts. In Europe, 54
cameras broadcast scenes from Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden,
Switzerland, Yugoslavia, and the Vatican, and included views of the Eiffel
Tower, the Coliseum, Big Ben, and more. The last minute of the broadcast was
cut off when Telstar dropped below the horizon as it continued to orbit.
Telstar 1 continued to operate until February 1963, when a
transmitter failure ended its short career. As of 2012, the dead satellite
still orbits the earth.
"Telstar TV Satellite Goes into Orbit," The Seattle Times, July 10, 1962, p. 1; "TV Leaps Sea as Telstar is
Orbited," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
July 11, 1962, p. 1; "Telstar Relays Fair Phone Call," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 11,
1962, p. 1; "New Telstar Relays Phone Calls and TV Pictures for the First
Time ," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
July 11, 1962, p. 9; "Telstar Satellite Gives World New Voice, Ears, Eyes,"
The Seattle Times, July 10, 1962, p.
8; "Peep Show of World On Telstar,"
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 23, 1962,
p. 9; "TV's Greatest Day Marks New Weapon For Cold War," The Seattle Times, July 24, 1962, p. 23; "U.S. Europe Swap Views Via
Telstar," Seattle Post-Intelligencer,
July 24, 1962, p. 1; "Fair Wishes Upon a Star," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 24, 1962, p. 1; "Telstar Again
Fails to Obey Relay Commands," The Seattle
Times, February 28, 1963, p. 2; "Satellite
History: Telstar", SatMagazine, May 2008 (http://www.satmagazine.com/cgi-bin/display_article.cgi?number=511938650);
U.S. Space Objects Registry, (http://usspaceobjectsregistry.state.gov/registry/dsp_DetailView.cfm?id=90&searched=1.)
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