Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
Primitive as it was compared to today's satellites, Echo I nevertheless ushered in a revolution in global communications. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 13, 1960:
The world's largest, most visible and most vulnerable artificial satellite, the communications relay Echo I, was launched at 5:39 a.m. yesterday from Cape Canaveral, Fla. Less than 30 minutes later it was in orbit, and within two hours it had passed its first practical test -- the transmission relay of a 127-word message from President Eisenhower.
The satellite is a 100-foot-diameter, plastic, aluminum-coated balloon weighing 132 pounds. It is in a nearly circular orbit, traveling from northwest to southeast, at speeds ranging from 15.884 m.p.h. at perigee (1014 miles) to 15.442 m.p.h. at apogee (1160 miles).
It will be visible to the naked eye any clear night for at least the next two weeks, as far north as the U.S.-Canadian border, and as far south as the tip of South America.
Its orbit, intersecting the equator at an angle of 46.97 degrees, should keep it in constant sunlight, out of the shadow of the earth, during all that time.
It will be as bright as the brightest (zero magnitude) star in the heavens, and seven times as bright as the North Star.
It circles the earth once every 121.6 minutes.
The successful practical use of such an orbiting station from which radio and television signals can be reflected includes global live television, space communication, improved intercontinental telephone service and an increase in the usable spectrum of radio frequencies by a factor of 100.
President Eisenhower's message came back loud and clear when received at Holmdel, N.J., after being sent from Goldstone, Calif., and reflected from the satellite 1000 miles over Kansas. The message said:
"This is President Eisenhower speaking.
"It is a great personal satisfaction to participate in this first experiment in communications involving the use of a satellite ballon known as Echo.
"This is one more significant step in the United States program of space research and exploration.
"The program is being carried forward vigorously by the United States for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.
"The satellite ballon which has reflected these words may be used freely by any nation for similar experiments in its own interests.
"Information necessary to prepare for such participation was widely distributed some weeks ago.
"The United States will continue to make freely available to the world the scientific information acquired from this and other experiments in its program of space exploration."