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Spotting Satellites In The Sky

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 18, 2023 3:03 am

Spotting Satellites In The Sky

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 18, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Richard Muniz tells the story of his first time seeing a satellite in the sky during a trip into the mountains of New Mexico. 

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See website for details. This is Lee Habib, and this is Our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, including your stories.

Send them to OurAmericanStories.com. They're some of our favorites. Up next, a story from a regular contributor, Richard Munoz. Today, Richard shares with us the story of a magical moment in his life when he was young, his first time seeing a satellite. Take it away, Richard. If you stop and think about it, it's really funny how memories work.

I'm not saying funny ha ha, I'm saying funny strange. When I stop and think about it, before six years old, my memories are kind of spotty at best. But there is stuff that sticks out more than others.

And one of those that sticks out more than some of the other ones is the first time I ever recall seeing a satellite. I wasn't even five years old yet, and we were going into the mountains. Now, when I talk about the mountains, what I'm talking about here is a tract of land in northern New Mexico. In years to come, we'd follow Highway 17 up and around Coombra's Pass and come in through a different road. Now, this led up to our summer range, and this is where we took our cattle in summer. But this time, we took the road up through Osier. Now, at the time, it was nothing more than a large water tank for the steam engines that used to move between Antinito and Chama.

The other thing I recall about Osier is the station itself. At the time, it wasn't open, but in this particular memory, what had happened is we had started out for the mountains. And it was already late in the day, and it had been very stormy. What this was was a family and extended family trip. And we were going to go up to the mountains and we were going to stay in what we called the Green Cabin. Pretty nice cabin.

The reason it had its name was, guess what, it was painted green. Whilst I mentioned, it was pretty stormy. It rained very heavily. It was raining so heavily up in the mountains, in fact, we kind of aborted our trip up into the mountains. We had two-wheel-drive pickups.

The soft mud was threatening to get them stuck. So, unable to go forward, unable to go back, we stopped and spent the night at Osier. The old station was unlocked, so we took refuge there. I recall everyone bringing in their bedding and we found a corner to sleep in.

A fire was starting in the old stove and a mill was prepared. We ate and everyone started around talking. I liked listening to the old-timers talk. They always told such interesting stories. I remember my old granny talking about coming out here with the Mormon expansion.

My grandfather talked about coming out here as a boy from Lebanon. Well, later that evening, the storm cleared out and the skies opened up. Washed by the rain, the stars were hard and bright that night, I remember. Echo was supposed to be passing over, I remember someone said. Echo? Yes, that balloon satellite they put up a few weeks ago.

So we all went out into the night to look for it. Now, as a four-year-old boy, I had no idea what an artificial satellite was. Oh, I'd seen TV shows and stuff like that, so what I was expecting to see was a full-size 1950s-style rocket thundering overhead.

Of course, that's not what I got. The Project Echo satellites were launched in 1960 and 1964. The idea behind them was one we take almost for granted today. Now, way back in 1945, science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, the same guy who wrote 2001 A Space Odyssey, came up with the idea of using satellites as a means of communication. The following year, they tried some experiments using a more natural satellite, in this case our moon, to reflect microwaves for communications. Well, once Sputnik was launched, Clarke's ideas were right on the verge of becoming reality.

Now, the first real attempts at using this idea was pretty simple. Put a big, aluminized balloon up in space and bounce the signals off that. Now, it took two tries to get the first Echo satellite up. The first one, on May 13th, 1960, well, that satellite ended up in the Atlantic.

The next attempt came a few months later, this time on August 12th. This time the satellite settled into orbit some thousand miles or so above the Earth. So what we have here is a hundred foot across a aluminized balloon, miles above the Earth, catching the sunlight.

This made it a really easy target for the eye to spot. So we step out into the cool mountain air. And I remember I looked up, and there's the universe just sprawled out before me. I almost got dizzy looking up. Standing there, on a loading platform of an aged train station, I stood at the edge of infinity. Knots and tangles of stars were overhead, and a ghostly cloud stretched from horizon to horizon, and stars of every color and by the thousands blurred into it.

I'd never seen anything so glorious. You see the light from those stars I remember Dad saying? They're so far away, light left them before you were even born. They're so far away, they may not even be there anymore. Now, the idea of the speed of light meant nothing to me. If they were that far away, then how far was far? And suddenly I felt very small and very lost in it all.

It thrilled me. My cosmos had just grown amazingly big, and I was part of something so much bigger than me. Now, as a young kid, the horizon is always incredibly close. As a child, my universe ended at the mountains during the San Luis Valley. There was little beyond it. I never put two and two together yet and realized there was more to my world than I knew.

But now, with a single sentence, the universe had gotten very, very big for me. We all peered into the sky, each quietly searching for something. Finally, after several minutes, someone pointed, There!

There it is! I looked, and here's a star moving quietly across the sky. I watched it travel like some magical force among the stars, and that, in years to come, I learned so well. The star moved with so much quiet and dignity it amazed me.

I remember it'd be several seconds before I even remembered to breathe. As I watched it move, it flashed, and then it faded away into the night. And even at four years old, there was a part of me that wished I was up there riding along with it.

Today, I've seen God knows how many satellites flying over. And like that four-year-old boy, I still wish I was along for the ride. And a terrific job by Monty on the production of that piece and the editing. And again, a special thanks to Richard Muniz, who's a regular contributor here on Our American Stories. Check out Richard's blog at williamalban.wordpress.com and check out Richard's other stories at ouramericanstories.com. Just look up Richard Muniz, M-U-N-I-Z, in the search bar. He's got a great one on the first black lawman in Colorado, the Russian MiG jet, and many others.

Richard Muniz's story about a light in the sky in the beautiful mountains of New Mexico, here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to ouramericanstories.com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-25 21:08:59 / 2023-08-25 21:13:12 / 4

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