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The Russians succeed in sending a rocket to the Moon

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The American rockets fail to get to the Moon
Bernard Lovell Astronomer
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I was in the Soviet Union in August 1958 on the date when the Americans were going to launch this probe to the moon. They did so and I managed to get on the telephone from, via a linguist who could speak 15 languages. He managed to get the telephone network through to Jodrell Bank where I learned that the rocket had been launched but had failed a few seconds after lift-off. This was repeated a second time and in October they launched their second attempt, they called them Pioneers then, the Pioneer II, and this was more successful. It travelled, it was located by the telescope and we tracked it for, I think 18,000 or 19,000 miles in, into space when it became perfectly clear it was nowhere like going to the moon, and in fact, it then fell back to earth, but nevertheless, had collected some important data from the ionosphere and the amount of inter- planetary space for which it had [unclear], so I think there was one other attempt which had a similar effect. So the Americans had failed with their new missile, to, new launching rocket, to send a payload to the moon.

Bernard Lovell (1913-2012), British radio astronomer and founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory, received an OBE in 1946 for his work on radar, and was knighted in 1961 for his contribution to the development of radio astronomy. He obtained a PhD in 1936 at the University of Bristol. His steerable radio telescope, which tracked Sputnik across the sky, is now named the Lovell telescope.

Listeners: Alastair Gunn Megan Argo

Alastair Gunn is an astrophysicist at Jodrell Bank Observatory, University of Manchester. He is responsible for the coordination and execution of international radio astronomical observations at the institute and his professional research concerns the extended atmospheres of highly active binary stars. Alastair has a deep interest and knowledge of the history of radio astronomy in general and of Jodrell Bank in particular. He has written extensively about Jodrell Bank's history.

Megan Argo is an astronomer at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory researching supernovae and star formation in nearby starburst galaxies. As well as research, she is involved with events in the Observatory's Visitor Centre explaining both astronomy and the history of the Observatory to the public.

Tags: Soviet Union, the Moon, Jodrell Bank

Duration: 1 minute, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2007

Date story went live: 05 September 2008