Clevelanders remember finding Sputnik

6:38 PM, Oct 4, 2007   |    comments
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And it was a group of Clevelanders who were among the first to detect that strange beeping thing in space. They remember like it was yesterday. When Sputnik roared into space on October 4, 1957, from the central Asian plains, it had barely started circling the earth when the St. Joseph High School Radio Club detected its faint "beep" high above." Club members had been trying to contact a fellow amateur radio operator in Africa, but encountered a strange singal instead. "In our process of tuning around we heard this beeping sound and we thought, that's kind of different, we haven't heard that before," recalls Ed Miller, retired broadcast engineer and member of the High School Radio Club in 1957. The signal faded and returned. Faded, and came back. Within hours the St. Joseph Radio Club realized what they'd found and started furiously taping the beeping sounds, for eight straight days. "Actually we ran out of tape," remembers Bob Leskovec, retired CWRU physicist and another member of that 1957 Radio Club. "We used up every bit of tape that we could get our hands on and called engineers at local radio stations to see if we could get more." Across town, WERE Radio engineer Joe Zelle, now 95, had discovered the same signal from Sputnik on his amateur radio equipment. Zelle recorded it and was the first to broadcast the beeps on the radio the following morning. The Radio Club had beaten everyone in discovering Sputnik, and soon the Feds wanted to know how. "The FBI came and visited and said to us we would like to borrow, confiscate your tapes to be analyzed," recalled Miller, "because you have in fact beaten the Navy by four hours in recording the signal." The FBI eventaully gave the Radio Club back the tapes, but they've since disappeared. However the memory of the day the Space Age began hasn't faded at all. To better remember, Leskovec and Miller are trying to track down other members of the St. Jospeh High School Radio Club, from 1951 to 1975. They've provided website links to make contact.

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