One big nuclear family?

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Telephonic conversation USA-Mechelen via Telstar. Click here to view at EUScreen

For months after it was launched, Telstar provided opportunities for brief exchanges of news and greetings.

It often functioned as the world's most high-tech telephone call at the time, relaying direct telephone transmissions across the ocean.

However, Telstar soon also ran afoul of the less peaceful aspects of space in Cold War Europe. In 1962, the American nuclear weapon test Starfish Prime exploded four hundred meters in the air the day before Telstar launched, an event that is believed to have caused major damage to the satellite.

It fell silent in December of 1962 and, after a brief re-activation, fell silent for good in February of 1963.

How to cite this page


Alexander Badenoch, 'One big nuclear family?', Inventing Europe,


  1. Schwoch, James. Global TV: New Media and the Cold War, 1946-69. University of Illinois Press, 2008.

About this tour


Opening Europe to 'Mondovision': the start of satellite broadcasting

After Sputnik, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before sounds and images would be coming from space. Many dreamed that this would unify the the peoples of the world if they could all receive the same signals. When Telstar, the first communications satellite, was launched, however, it also revealed divisions on the ground.

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What's like this?

The Telstar satellite

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