50 Years Ago, Telstar Debuted Live Video From Space

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel note that the first satellite to bounce TV pictures from Europe to the U.S. and back was inaugurated 50 years ago on Monday. Telstar allowed live images to be seen instantly on both sides of the Atlantic.


Fifty years ago on this date, space became TV-friendly. It was one small moment for an orbiting satellite called Telstar 1, one big leap for couch potatoes everywhere.

WALTER CRONKITE: This is North American continent live via AT&T Telstar, July 23, 1962, 3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time in the East. The New York skyline on the Atlantic Ocean. On the West, 3,000 miles away, San Francisco. Between these two oceans, 180 million Americans have begun another week.


That was the late CBS TV news anchor Walter Cronkite, proclaiming a major media moment. The world had already put satellites in Earth orbit, flung chimpanzees and astronauts around the globe, but Telstar was a milestone. It allowed live TV pictures to bounce back and forth between America and Europe.

CRONKITE: Eurovision. Eurovision, we are now putting up our Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on the left side of our monitor. If you'll please put up your Eiffel Tower in Paris next to it, we're going to wait for your signal that's been completed. We'll go on that signal.

RICHARD DIMBLEBY: Hello, Walter Cronkite. Hello, United States. On my television screen here in Brussels, I have on the left-hand side the Statue of Liberty. On the right-hand side, the Eiffel Tower. They are both together. It's clear. So go, America, go. Go, America, go.

SIEGEL: That was the BBC's Richard Dimbleby, who was on the other end of the line in Europe.

CORNISH: Telstar was the first step to our modern world and, within a month of its debut, the UK band The Tornadoes would score a hit with a song inspired by the communications satellite. Telstar became the first U.S. number one hit by a British group.




Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from