50 Years Ago, Telstar Debuted Live Video From Space

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.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TELSTAR")

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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