Monday, June 3, 2013


For quite a while I've been meaning to track-down something I remember from my childhood: National Geographic magazine, in 1969, published an issue which inside had a vinyl pull-out record that over-viewed the history of space flight.

Last week I decided to do a little investigating and found that National Geographic's website has a page on the record in question...

The 11-minute-long disc, titled, rather aptly, "Sounds of the Space Age" was an insert in the December 1969 issue, of which over six million were printed. (Wow. How many magazines get a print-run of that many today?)

It was a pretty big deal to mini space cadets such as moi; I must have played that record at least fifty times. I had remembered that it was a 33-and-a-third-speed record, but I had forgotten that Apollo 8 astronaut Frank Borman was the narrator.

To produce the disc, Joseph Judge, Senior Editorial staff-member of the National Geographic Society, and staff audiovisual engineer Jon H. Larimore pored over recordings from many sources, including NASA, the United States Air Force, and Radio Moscow; in the process, distilling a final 10 minutes and 51 second record. They did an outstanding job. What easily could have been a knock-it-off, run-of-the-mill effort turned out to be an aural treat outlining twelve years of space exploration by man.

The voices of Yuri Gagarin, Radio Moscow, Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Frank Borman, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and others of note are all there. We hear the flights of Sputnik 1, Vostok 1, Freedom 7, Apollo's 8 & 11, and more. Not forgotten are more serious moments, such as the Apollo 1 fire of January 1967, where astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee perished, and the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov in Soyuz 1, just four months later.

What I remember thinking, even as a child, was how atmospheric "Sounds of the Space Age" felt at times. The specific selection of audio clips, and their editing, added to the overall effect -- a storybook, of sorts. All great stuff when you were a kiddie during the exciting and dramatic era of early space travel. This would explain the frequent listens.

I decided to pop over to Youtube to see if there were any videos of the record. There were several; the one I picked was dictated by the fact that the uploader has the same turntable as me. Cool, eh?...

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