The first man-made object in space

Australia has a guru all it’s own - Dr. Karl Kruzselnicki. Medical doctor and all round smart guy. He’s written some twenty books as this web site attests :-

At this address you can also find a sound file of his take on “Mike the Headless Chicken” and other stuff.

In one of his books, I think it was called “Great Moments in Science” he says that the first man made object in space was the cover of a missile silo ejected into space by an accidental missile detonation within the silo some time during the cold war.

Dr Karl doesn’t tell lies and I’ve retold this story a number of times over the years but of late I’ve begun to question many things I held dear, primarily because of The Straight Dope. So I open this question to those most likely to know THE TRUTH.

A missile silo cover is, I think, made of tons of reinforced concrete. There is NO WAY an explosion blew it into space.

Maybe you mean a missile nose cone cover? It may have been the first in space, immediately followed by the rest of the missile.

The question is not defined enough. You mean object that went into orbit? Or just into “space”? And how would you define “space”? How many miles above the earth’s surface?

The first object to leave the Earth’s atmosphere was a V-2 missile.

I seem to recall Dr K describes the object as 300 Kg of steel.

“Space” is when it doesn’t come down again, of course.

A date for the V2 rocket would be handy. I know I was vague with “the Cold War” please don’t follow my example.

Looks like I’ll have to find his book just to give us a proper benchmark.

No ‘of course’ about it, I’m afraid; I squirted a water pistol into the air on a hot day and some of the water didn’t come back down again; did it go into space?

I find it most improbable that an explosion on the earth’s surface would eject an object into orbit without destroying it in the process.

V2s (originally called A4), first fired against England in, 1944, travelled in a maximum altitude of 85 kilometres , one technical reference book tells me. IIRC, convention defines “space” as everything above 100 km, so it didn’t reach “space”.

The first heavier-than-air objects to reach stratosphere, I read, were the projectiles of German 120 km distance guns fired on Paris in 1918.

that would also mean that Alan B. Shepherd wasn’t the first American in space, as is usually claimed, because he didn’t make a full orbit.

That would also mean Skylab was never in “space.” :rolleyes:

If your question is “what is the first manmade object to leave the earth and never return?” I think the answer would be the first unmanned probe that the Russians landed on the moon.

Zev Steinhardt

This happens to be the current column on The Last Word. I expect the url for this item will change. At present it’s still got coding errors on it. Short answer: no.

>> “Space” is when it doesn’t come down again, of course.

So what’s your definition os “in orbit”?

>> I find it most improbable that an explosion on the earth’s surface would eject an object into orbit without destroying it in the process.

I would say impossible for several reasons. One is that an object traveling through the lower atmosphere at escape velocity would not last long. Another is that to impart escape velocity you would need a huge acceleration over some time which means an ultra long cannon. To acceleration needed to impart escape velocity in a fraction of a second (explosion) would destroy anything. And probably not even a nuclear explosion would put anything in orbit.

The first manmade object to orbit the Earth was Sputnick 1, launched in 1957.

Does Dr. Kruzselnicki give a date, a location, or any other infromation about this supposed silo incident?

From hawthorne’s link:

Other than the part about White Sands being in Mexico as opposed to New Mexico…?

True back in the fifties the U.S. experimented with A-Bomb powered spaceship. They had expected it to take five 1 megaton bombs just to reach orbit. But could not make a base plate strong enough to take the push of just one.

My father (a Division Director at NASA, currently), tells a wonderful story about one of the first underground nuclear tests. Dig a deep shaft in the desert, insert bomb, fill shaft with umpteen tons of rubble, and add a steel cap. He claims that he’s seen a frame from one of the cameras filming said test, and that the blurred streak captured there might well be a steel cap flung waaaay past escape velocity.

I dunno, but this sounds somewhat plausible…

Whoops, I didn’t see that link to the before I posted… And to think I’ve been sharing that story with folks for the last 20 years.


Can someone smarter than myself calculate exactly what would happen if 300kg of steel shaped into a disc (say, five metres across?) were accelerated (in the space of, say, half a second) to escape velocity (taking into account that escape velocity in this case means overcoming not only gravity, but all that air resistance on the way up - with no additional thrust)?

My WAG would be that pumping such energy into a (relatively)small piece of metal in such a short time would just vapourise it.

Forget I asked that; I didn’t notice the NewScientist link either.

The V-2’s fired against England in the war didn’t reach space, but V-2’s launched for the purpose of reaching space in the late 40’s did.

Without other qualification, “reach space” usually means attaining an altitude of 100 km.

The V-2 made it to about 350 km.