From the "When Galaxies Collide" Department...
The Arts and Leisure section of today's Sunday New York Times carried a front-page story about a bizarre tale involving our namesake, the Telstar 1 telecommunications satellite, and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
This seems like an unlikely pairing to contemporary ears, because, as we've discussed previously, Telstar 1 did come with a popular soundtrack. But the #1 hit song from 1962 that we now know as "Telstar" was created by a British music producer named Joe Meek.
Before "Telstar" topped the charts, however, Telstar 1 participated in an all-American event with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to strike a blow for freedom as part of a Cold War propaganda campaign. The Times recalls how the historic day unfolded shortly after Telstar reached orbit:
At 3:30 in the morning on July 23, 1962, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir gathered at the airport [in Salt Lake City] for a flight to a military base in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Preparations for a now nearly forgotten salvo of the cold war, called Operation Telstar, were under way.
It was time to sing.
The 360-member choir, the lyrical voice of Mormonism since pioneer days, was on a mission with multiple levels, historians and surviving singers say. They were to be the featured musical anchor later that day for the first international satellite television program -- a blast of American culture and technological prowess aimed at Europe, using a wobbly, 170-pound satellite that had been launched into orbit that month.