INT: What did this sound mean to you?
RW: To me, it was the confirmation of the fact the Russians had indeed put a satellite into orbit and sitting there listening to that signal and watching the booster go overhead you couldn't help but get goose-bumps thinking about that thing. I have a tape recording that I made that evening and I can play it here now.
(Switches on tape recorder)
INT: Can you tell me that this is the actual tape?
RW: Yes. This is the original tape I made on the evening of October the 6th 1957 and, lost it right there!
INT: Tell me (inaudible) what you're hearing is.
RW: OK. What you're hearing here is the a tape recording of the radio signals from Sputnik on the evening of October 6th, 1957 and the beeping or chirping sound that you hear is caused by the key-up, key-down condition in which they turn the signal on and off as it goes by. You'll notice occasionally that the signal is does not go off. It continues in a continuous tone for a while and then it goes back to doing its beeping. I'm not sure if that's some sort of telemetry or just what we're hearing there but I did notice it as an anomaly that night.
INT: What was the general reaction of your colleagues and your neighbors to Sputnik?
RW: Well, most of them like us, they were holding down jobs and they'd read it in the paper. Some of my neighbors had no reaction to it whatsoever because putting something in orbit was not all that amazing to them because they probably didn't understand all the technology required. Others were as amazed as I was about it but there wasn't any fear that I could see evidenced by any of the neighbors. People that I worked with marveled about it. Those who were in the engineering profession I think perhaps knew more about what was going on. But I did not see any fear evidenced at the time. There was the knowledge that the Russians now had something that they could put something over our heads that could do damage to us and hurt us if they really wanted to.
INT: On the scale of achievement, technological achievement of the Fifties, how high would you rate Sputnik?
RW: Oh, I'd say it was right up at the top aoh, from the technology of the Fifties, I would say that the launching of Sputnik was probably rated right up right up at the very top. We were during part of that time I was in the military and was away from news but we were aware of the advances in atomic bomb development and that sort of thing and then to come home and, see something like this happen. We knew that rockets were being fired up occasionally, straight up and straight down, but never anything to this degree.
INT: And how important, looking back on it now, do you feel it was?
RW: I think probably, looking back on it now, the importance of Sputnik was the fact that it galvanized the United States into getting busy and, actually really getting started in the space development work. I know that as far back as 1954 there was the urging of some scientists that we should do something in to get ready for the International Geophysical Year and that there were lot of people were looking at this and talking about it. There just was not the support in the government circles for doing this or spending the money to do that sort of thing. So that's why I felt like (buzzer in background) we could have done it and we didn't do it.
INT: .(unintelligible), final question then Roy. It's two questions in one. Did you think of the Russians as an enemy, and not only as an enemy but a technologically inferior enemy and was that one of the surprises with Sputnik?
RW: To me, I guess, having Sputnik go into orbit meant that the Russians were technologically more further along than I had thought they would be in that sort of technology. It didn't surprise me that they could do something like this because we had seen what had happened in their development of the atomic bomb and then the hydrogen bomb very shortly after the United States had done so. So I felt like they had very technical and very, capable people working in the Soviet Union. It was just my feeling like that I hadn't expected it. I really hadn't looked forward to seeing them do this sort of thing as early as they had done it.
INT: Roy, thank you very much indeed, terrific.
END OF INTERVIEW WITH ROY WELCH