The movie, Ghostbusters, was a smash hit when it hit the big screen in 1984. The cast composed of Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Dan Akroyd, Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver struck it big…and it earned over $537 million dollars worldwide and spawned at least two sequels, an animated TV series and several video games. It set studio records for the first opening week at the time of its release. Even Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of four stars! One of the lines from that movie that will live forever in many minds was: “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!”
Well, on Saturday, we went to the grand opening of the Wild Bird Center in Johns Creek. My wife has recently gotten the “wild bird” bug and has acquired some bird feeders. Since the grand opening has to be special, they brought in some owls for display, along with their handlers.
We thought it would be fun to take our two youngest grand-daughters to the grand opening so they could see the birds. There were three owls there: one was a horned owl, and I think one was a barn owl (the one in the picture) and one more that was considerably smaller and a light orange-brown color.
Those that wanted to could put on a leather glove and hold the barn owl on their arm. My wife, being possessed of bird fever, asked our 5-1/2 year old grand daughter if she wanted to hold it but she said no. So, Laurel wanted to hold it. She put the glove on and held the owl. I asked our grand daughter if she wanted to get in the picture with Nana and the bird and she nodded her head, very apprehensively, yes. I could tell, though, that she had reservations. But she’s a brave girl and she stepped into the picture after a bit of encouragement. That’s when I took today’s picture. As you can see, she wasn’t sure about this!
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1961, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space. During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. Vostok 1 orbited Earth at a maximum altitude of 187 miles and was guided entirely by an automatic control system. The only statement attributed to Gagarin during his one hour and 48 minutes in space was, “Flight is proceeding normally; I am well.”
After his historic feat was announced, Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity and was awarded the Order of Lenin and given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
The Sovieta putting the first man into space was a great blow to the US, which scheduled its first space flight for May 1961. Moreover, Gagarin had orbited Earth, a feat that eluded the U.S. space program until February 1962, when astronaut John Glenn made three orbits in Friendship 7. By that time, the Soviet Union had already made another leap ahead in the “space race” with the August 1961 flight of cosmonaut Gherman Titov in Vostok 2. Titov made 17 orbits and spent more than 25 hours in space.
The Soviet conquest of space was supposed to show the supremacy of communism over capitalism. However, to those who worked on the Vostok program and earlier on Sputnik, the successes were attributable to one man: Sergei Pavlovich Korolev. Because of his controversial past, Chief Designer Korolev was unknown in the West and to all but insiders in the USSR until his death in 1966.
Born in 1906, Korolev was part of a team that launched the first Soviet liquid-fueled rocket in 1933. In 1938, his sponsor fell prey to Joseph Stalin’s purges, and Korolev and his colleagues were put on trial. Convicted of treason and sabotage, Korolev was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp. The Soviet authorities came to fear German rocket advances, however, and after only a year Korolev was ordered to continue his rocketry work.
In 1945, Korolev went to Germany to learn about the V-2 rocket. The Americans had captured the rocket’s designer, Wernher von Braun, who later headed the U.S. space program, but the Soviets acquired a fair amount of V-2 resources and a few German V-2 technicians. By employing this technology and his own engineering talents, by 1954 Korolev had built a rocket that could carry a five-ton nuclear warhead and in 1957 launched the first intercontinental ballistic missile.
That year, Korolev’s plan to launch a satellite was approved, and on October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 was fired into Earth’s orbit. It was the first Soviet victory of the space race, and Korolev, still technically a prisoner, was officially rehabilitated. The Soviet space program would go on to numerous space firsts in the late 1950′s and early ’60s: first animal in orbit, first large scientific satellite, first man, first woman, first three men, first space walk, first spacecraft to impact the moon, first to orbit the moon, first to impact Venus, and first craft to soft-land on the moon. Throughout this time, Korolev remained anonymous, known only as the “Chief Designer.” His dream of sending cosmonauts to the moon ended in failure, because the Soviet lunar program received just one-tenth the funding allocated to America’s successful Apollo lunar landing program.
Korolev died in 1966. Upon his death, his identity was finally revealed to the world, and he was awarded a burial in the Kremlin wall as a hero of the Soviet Union. Yuri Gagarin was killed in a routine jet-aircraft test flight in 1968. His ashes were also placed in the Kremlin wall.
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Owls lack eye muscles which would allow them to move their eyeballs. That’s one reason they have to move their heads so far in order to see what is outside of their peripheral vision.