The Day Television Went To Space


One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Many of history’s most iconic moments have something in common. They were broadcast to the
world live by satellite. But this technical feat
that we take for granted was not even possible all that long ago. In fact, the entire era can be traced back to July 10th, 1962,
the day TV went global. And here it is, television. The exciting new medium of television had been in regular use since the 1940s. But there was a problem. Live TV could only be
transmitted by cables or by terrestrial repeaters. And both methods were impractical
over very long distances. In the first half of the 20th century, a radical idea had been
proposed in scientific circles. What if an object could
be put into outer space that would act like a giant mirror, bouncing signals from one
point on Earth to another? At the time, no manmade object
had actually been in space, but technically, it seemed possible. In the late 1950s, hundreds
of engineers and scientists at AT&T Bell Laboratories were put to work on an ambitious new project. The first active communication
satellite in space. The project was called Telstar. By today’s standards, the
design was rudimentary and consumed less power than
the average modern laptop. But at the time, it was cutting edge, featuring then-new technologies
such as solar cells, transistors, and a telemetry
system for collecting data. No less impressive was the
ground equipment needed to track, transmit, and receive signals
from the Telstar satellite. Massive yet exceptionally
precise satellite dishes were constructed on both
side of the Atlantic Ocean in order to capture and
amplify Telstar’s faint signal as it whizzed and bobbed
through its elliptical orbit. In the early morning of July 10th, 1962, Telstar One was launched
atop a Thor-Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral Air
Force Station in Florida, the same site from which
the Apollo 11 astronauts would depart for their trip to the moon almost exactly seven years later, a feat that would be broadcast
live to the entire world, thanks in part to Telstar’s
groundbreaking achievement. Armstrong is on the moon, Neil Armstrong. Around 15 hours after its launch, Telstar relayed the first live satellite video transmission in history, a congratulatory telephone call between U.S. Vice President Lyndon Johnson and the Chairman of AT&T,
which had funded the project. Good evening, Mister Vice President. How do you hear me? You’re coming through
nicely, Mister Cap-ul. Well, that’s wonderful, the first telephone message in the world over an active satellite. Two weeks late on July 23rd, a 20 minute multi-national
program was broadcast to hundreds of millions of viewers in
Europe and the Americas. Good afternoon. Soon we’ll be saying
good evening to Europe on the first exchange of live programs between the television
networks of the United States and their affiliated stations and the European Broadcast Union. The lineup included a brief glimpse of a baseball game at Wrigley Field. Let’s give all the baseball fans in Europe a big hello from Chicago. Remarks by U.S. President John F. Kennedy. I understand that part of
today’s press conference is being relayed by the
Telstar communication satellite and this is another indication of the extraordinary
world in which we live. And live scenes from landmarks around the U.S. and world. A new era had officially dawned. Putting another bit of history behind it, Telstar will now rest
for two and a half hours while its solar batteries build
up energy for another epic. Telstar was celebrated as a monumental achievement, became a sort of high-tech celebrity, praised
by politicians, journalists, and scientists, and referenced
widely in popular culture. That’s no moon, it’s a space station. Live by satellite soon
became a regular feature on network television, for
everything from breaking news. Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall. To sporting events. With the ever-present shadow
of the Cold War looming large, Telstar also marked a rare
early victory in the Space Race for the United States, which
by that point had been beaten by the Soviet Union with the
first satellite in space, the first animal in space,
and the first man in space. Unfortunately, the first
Telstar satellite was damaged by residual radiation from
a thermo-nuclear bomb test the day before its launch, which led to the satellite’s early
demise within a few months. Nevertheless, it demonstrated to the world that live communication by
a satellite was feasible, proving the concepts laid
out by early visionaries. Soon to follow were more advanced
communication satellites, such as the Hughes
Syncom, whose much higher geosynchronous orbit
allowed for true 24/7 global TV coverage far beyond Telstar’s
limited broadcast window due to its orbit path. Although Telstar’s
technology was soon eclipsed, the project also marked
another important first: the first privately
sponsored space mission carrying a commercial payload. At a cost to AT&T of about $25 million per launch in today’s money. Despite early concerns by policymakers about the potential domination
over space communications by private industry, the
success of the Telstar project and the urgency to compete
against the Soviet Union helped to usher in an age
of competitive cooperation between the U.S. government
and the private sector in developing space technology. That continues to today
with companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, One Way, and countless other start-ups. Thanks to the new commercial space race, satellites have once again become the center of attention. The cost to build and
launch new satellites continues to drop,
widening the playing field for eager entrepreneurs such
as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who are developing satellite networks to provide broadband internet to the estimated four billion people who lack reliable access. Other new satellite projects
are devoted to everything from tracking greenhouse gas emissions to urban traffic flows
to refugee movements. Thousands of satellites
are currently in orbit, with thousands more likely on
their way in the near future. SpaceX alone has filed for FCC permits for almost 12,000 new
satellite in coming years. Meanwhile, almost 60 years later, the long dormant Telstar
One is still floating around our planet, a celestial
artifact from a moment in history that launched the
world as we see it today.

81 thoughts on “The Day Television Went To Space

  1. Wasn't Arthur C. Clarke famous for, aside from being a writer, thinking up communication satellites in the '40's?

  2. Arthur c Clarke proposed geosynchronous satellite communication in the October issue of wireless world magazine in 1945. Msm tells you television is transmitted via submarine cable not satellite and your lucky if you could send a txt (sms go figure) or check your email. ATT got to put satellites in space and Nixon got to put men on the moon and preach one world government to everyone at the same time. In my opinion of course.

  3. Bloomberg never fails to amaze.. I'm particularly fan of your clips related to economics, market studies.

    Video suggestion – there's this Indian guy billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi, who like a year ago duped a consortium of Indian banks a sum equivalent to 1.6 billion US dollars in form of loans and bank guarantees and then fled to UK where currently he's still at large.
    The interesting aspect is how he managed to transfer that money away from India with some entries in bank accounts based in Hong Kong and Switzerland (I'm not fully confirmed). He then successfully managed to collect all that money back in England where he's lavishly living now.
    There are random videos of him on internet where you can see he resides in an upscale locality in London, in other one he's eating dinner at a fancy restaurant and suddenly he gets swarmed by lots of news reporters who try to question his whereabouts and surrendering and extradition to India and he just remorselessly ignores them all.
    I think all this could be pretty interesting profile video.

  4. USSR:
    .First Satellite in space
    .First animal in space
    .First man in space

    America: Went to the moon
    Winner: aMeRiCa

  5. Most Bloomberg news articles and vidoes are a sham/scam and full of lies or misleading information…. However, this was one was very good video… Only very rarely does Bloomberg says/shows/reports the truth!

  6. 3:08 "Let's give all the baseball fans in Europe a big hello from Chicago", lol the speaker must have never been to Europe……

  7. My grandmother turned 87 this year, I can't imagine the technological, scientific, cultural etc changes she must've witnessed!

  8. For anyone interested – much of the archive footage appearing here comes from ‘Telstar!’ (1962), a documentary film produced by Bell and available here on YouTube. Search for the AT&T archives

  9. Someday, a space archaeologist will grab that first communications satellite and bring it back down to be put in a museum.

  10. They talk like they're giving satellite internet for free, it's the most expensive crap ever. Every person I've talked to with Hughes tells me they pay 80$ for 10 gigs a month and it's slow. I'm not sure what other plans are offered but i assume it gets higher.

  11. Another fun(?) fact: high atmospheric nuclear testing (Starfish Prime) was responsible for disabling Telstar in 1962

  12. I was a child growing up in the Air Force, my dad was a M. S.
    He woke me up in the middle of the night, took the entire family outside.
    He pointed out a moving pinpoint of light in the sky.
    He said it was a thing called Telstar, a satellite in orbit that would change the world.
    He was right.

  13. So, for the first "transatlantic TV show", it was only US content sent to Europe ?
    Talk about Americanization of culture…

  14. It's so funny that a pioneer in the idea of orbital satellites, Arthur C. Clarke, was laughed at for suggesting his farfetched ideas to space agencies. And what's more, his name wasnt even mentioned once in this video.

  15. Hey, what about the first woman in space? Russia beat us to that, and we didn't even know we were racing.

  16. All lie. The transmissions are made by submarine cables and antennas. The few satellites that exist are suspended by balloons and are not in the orbit of the planet, because the earth is not spherical.

  17. Absolutely INSANE to think that this was only less than 60 years ago. Today, the average 5 year old has a smartphone that is literally millions of times better. What's even crazier is that think about technology being a million times better than what we have today, and it won't take 60 years to happen.

  18. I remember on my estate where I grew up in the early 80's my friends dad got Satellite tv, it had a hydraulic arm on the dish, could get over 500 channels, was amazing back then

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