Why We Sent 500 Million Needles to Space

3 min read

Morning Space Needles!

You heard me right… 500 million tiny copper needles sent into space.

But, why?

So, it's the early 1960s, height of the cold war.

Tensions between the US and the Soviets are super high.

But the cold war was all about keeping it coooool.

Less direct fighting and more sneaky tactics.

So, the US became worried the Soviets might destroy the undersea cables they rely on for communication with their buddies across the pond.

So, they started searching for a way to communicate that wasn’t so easy to… blow up.

The thing is, communication satellites weren’t really a thing yet.

So they first tried bouncing radio waves off giant shiny balloons that they would send up into the atmosphere.

Which totally failed.

Then someone came up with a pretty interesting idea:

So that's exactly what they did!

And In may 1963, the US sent this thing up into space:

Once it got up there, it released about 44 pounds of these tiny copper needles into space.

Now, that might not sound like a lot, but this 44 pounds of copper consisted of 500 MILLION tiny copper needles.

Here's just how small they were:

So, you got 500 million of these things just floating around space, now what?

Well, because of gravity, these little needles slowly started to move around…

Eventually forming a ring around the Earth.


Unfortunately, this was completely invisible to the naked eye.

But it was there.

And, it actually worked, the US could bounce radio signals off it.

The issue was scientists were PISSED, and the soviets accused the US of dirtying space.

This was technically the first space junk.

Since then, the US started using satellites for communication instead.

Most of these tiny copper needles have since fallen back to Earth.

But, some still orbit the Earth to this day…

Stay Cute,
Reece, Henry & Dylan 🌈

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