The Vanguard Legacy
There is no doubt that the Vanguard Program was feasible but disastrous attempt
by the United States to respond to the success of the Soviet Sputniks.
Pressed into service before it was ready, Vanguard will forever mean "failure"
and "embarrassment" in the language of the American space program. Even Soviet
Premier Nikita Khrushchev referred to the tiny craft as a "crushed grapefruit."
After the first Vanguard exploded on the launch
pad, ten more attempts were made to launch these small satellites. Only
three of the launches were successful.
Nevertheless, the three successfully orbited Vanguards left positive legacies.
The satellites conducted some of the first studies from space of solar
radiation and its effect on the Earth's atmosphere.
The Oldest Satellites
But the greatest legacy left by the Vanguards is their longevity. Although
long since defunct, the tiny satellites should continue orbiting the Earth for
at least another 200 years—a true testimony to the early, difficult
years of spaceflight.