In 1954, the day before Thanksgiving, NASA makes a third attempt at launching its 'Minimum Orbital Unmanned Satellite of Earth,' with a St. Christopher's medal welded to the rocket's hull for luck. This time, the liftoff is successful; the satellite, dubbed (perhaps inevitably) Mickey, reaches orbit, and will circle the earth every ninety minutes for over three days before splashing down in the Pacific.
Its beeping radio signal will be picked up around the world. In the Soviet Union, Communist Party chief Nikita Khrushchev is furious that the U.S. has upstaged his country. He demands that Soviet rocket experts 'immediately' duplicate and then surpass the American feat.