In 1958, when I initially arrived at the Cape Canaveral U.S.A.F. Missile Test Center, I began to hear the word "Lonesome George" intermingled into conversations between old time aerospace personnel. Finally, as I was sitting and eating lunch in one of several base cafeterias, I heard it once again and interrupted three people that had used the words between bites. Two of the lunch guests told me the following:
They had been developing and working the Range Tracking Network contracted by the RCA Company since the earlier years of the 1950's. During the range testing of various instruments, the large radio telescope (Tel-2) in use to collect telemetry as a rocket was launched and in flight down range was confronted by a mystery. While the launch was in progress, the RCA crew operating the large dish began to pick up two signals returning from what they thought to be one source. One signal was quicker to return and the other caused a longer delay to report to the instrumentation consoles located in an adjacent building to the dish. As the missile gained altitude and distance, the second deep space object faded from the dish due to it following the progress of the rocket.
Completing the assigned tracking and telemetry gathering of the missile functions, the crew realized that the acquisition of the second object located its position to be far out in space somewhere between the moon and earth. Then they realized that the object appeared to be in a stationary orbit some 80 to 100,000 miles from earth.
This was highly improbable due to our not having the capabilities to orbit such a deep space object or any other at this point in our scientific development. What could it be? Our deepest concerns were that the USSR had leaped far ahead of our expertise in booster rocket capabilities and spacecraft design. A fact that was only a few years off with the first satellite orbiting of Sputnik in 1957.
The acquiring of this mystery object would repeat itself several times again in the coming years. Once during the bouncing of signals off the moon. Another second reply was heard and determined to be the same mystery object. So, the pioneering RCA Team gave the mystery object a name: Lonesome George.
Is Lonesome George still out there? I have no clue at this time of history. But it did cause the high ranking USAF officers at the Cape and those at Patrick AFB, 20 miles South of the launch sites much concern in their suspicions that it was a Soviet Space Weapon being aimed at the USA. Of course we know today that it was not.