This is the final trading card I own from the Defenders of America series produced by the National Biscuit Company. Perhaps somewhere down the line someone who owns the full collection will upload them to a site. If they do, and provide me with a link, I will happily link to their site.

Click on either image to see it larger.

Seems appropriate to end with this item which depicts the first U. S. missile to send a satellite into space. In other words, I’m out of here.

Explorer 1 (1958 Alpha 1) was the first Earth satellite of the United States, launched as part of its participation in the International Geophysical Year. The mission followed the first two Earth satellites the previous year, the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 and 2, beginning the Cold War Space Race between the two nations.

Explorer 1 was launched on January 31, 1958 at 22:48 Eastern Time (equal to February 1, 03:48 UTC) atop the first Juno booster from LC-26 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex, Florida. It was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt, returning data until its batteries were exhausted after nearly four months. It remained in orbit until 1970, and has been followed by more than 90 scientific spacecraft in the Explorer series. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
From NASA:

Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched by the United States when it was sent into space on January 31, 1958. Following the launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. Army Ballistic Missile Agency was directed to launch a satellite using its Jupiter C rocket developed under the direction of Dr. Wernher von Braun. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory received the assignment to design, build and operate the artificial satellite that would serve as the rocket's payload. JPL completed this job in less than three months.

The primary science instrument on Explorer 1 was a cosmic ray detector designed to measure the radiation environment in Earth orbit. Once in space this experiment, provided by Dr. James Van Allen of the University of Iowa, revealed a much lower cosmic ray count than expected. Van Allen theorized that the instrument may have been saturated by very strong radiation from a belt of charged particles trapped in space by Earth's magnetic field. The existence of these radiation belts was confirmed by another U.S. satellite launched two months later, and they became known as the Van Allen Belts in honor of their discoverer.

Explorer 1 revolved around Earth in a looping orbit that took it as close as 354 kilometers (220 miles) to Earth and as far as 2,515 kilometers (1,563 miles). It made one orbit every 114.8 minutes, or a total of 12.54 orbits per day. The satellite itself was 203 centimeters (80 inches) long and 15.9 centimeters (6.25 inches) in diameter. Explorer 1 made its final transmission on May 23, 1958. It entered Earth's atmosphere and burned up on March 31, 1970, after more than 58,000 orbits. The satellite weighed 14 kilograms (30.8 pounds).

A launch attempt of a similar satellite, Explorer 2, was made on March 5, 1958, but the fourth stage of the Jupiter-C rocket failed to ignite. Explorer 3 was successfully launched on March 26, 1958, and operated until June 16 of that year. Explorer 4 was launched July 26, 1958, and operated until October 6 of that year. Launch of Explorer 5 on August 24, 1958, failed when the rocket's booster collided with its second stage after separation, causing the firing angle of the upper stage to be incorrect. (SOURCE: NASA)
And for those old enough to remember watching the night sky in search of the early satellites, or for those who just remember the excitement of space exploration, I give you a truly bizarre hit song from 1962 performed by a British band known as The Tornados. Nod if you remember this. Then go hit your head against the wall if you remember listening to this on a transistor radio hidden under your pillow when you were supposed to be asleep.

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