When you watch the London Olympics — or use your cell phone — keep in mind that it all began 50 years ago this week with the first telecommunications satellite broadcast. My dad, Newton Minow, was one of the people who made it happen. He wrote a piece for the Chicago Tribune about how it happened and why it mattered. Here he describes some of what happened behind the scenes.
President Kennedy invited me to go with him on a tour of our major space installations. When we were in St. Louis at a McDonnell plant, he beckoned to me to his side and said he heard I was pushing communications satellites and asked me why I thought it was so important.
I said, “Mr. President, communication satellites are more important than sending a man into space because they will launch ideas, and ideas last longer than men and women.”
The president sent the Communications Satellite Act of 1962 to Congress to create a public-private entity to develop satellites; I testified 13 times before different Senate and House committees.
I remember at one Senate hearing that Louisiana Sen. Russell Long said, “You say this is one area where we are ahead of the Russians in space. What do you suggest we do to stay ahead of the Russians?”
I replied that we should try to get the Russians to adopt the same bureaucratic regulatory system we have for communications, especially to get the Russians to pass the American Administrative Procedure Act, which will tie them up in red tape.