Desmond King-Hele: helping Bernard Lovell to find Sputnik 1

Desmond King-Hele remembers helping Bernard Lovell to use the Jodrell Bank telescope to track Sputnik 1 in 1957.

Listen to the full interview track and all other tracks from this interview on British Library Sounds

Bernard Lovell was trying to track the rocket of the first Sputnik with his telescope at Jodrell Bank. And in fact he succeeded in doing so often enough to save the thing from its, you know it was a financial disaster at the time. And of course this rocket could be seen with the naked eye [laughs] and there quite a lot of occasions when he would ring me up and ask, to say, ‘It’s a bit out on its predictions, can you observe it again and give me the correction.’ And I remember doing it once when I was a Seaford with my parents, they got this phone call [laughs] from Professor Lovell [laughs]. And fortunately, well he knew when it was coming because obviously, you know, had a rough prediction. Fortunately that day it was all right and I went right up on the top of the cliffs, I remember, to get no light so that I could make sure I saw it, see it over the town, and I did. So I was able to give him another prediction and he was able to observe it again with the new observation that allowed him to look at it the next night as well. And that was vitally important; he wouldn’t have got the finance, you know, he was very much down on the finance for it, and it was that that turned the corner for him really, the fact that he had this facility. He would come on the radio and said, ‘Yes, we’ve observed it again,’ sort of thing, and so he gave the impression that they were on top of the job [laughs]. Didn’t say he had to phone me up [laughs] and ask me where it was [laughs].
  • Interviewee Desmond King-Hele
  • Duration 00:01:55
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 6/8/2010
  • Shelfmark C1379/13

Related Audio Clips

The following clips are short extracts from an in-depth interview.
To listen to the full interview visit

Related Video Clips

Related themes

Related disciplines