It was 1959, the height of both the Cold War and the associated “Space Race” between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Summer Science Program had been conceived as a way to encourage more bright American teenagers to study science and engineering in college. At the very first SSP, students were observing asteroids and calculating their orbital elements (as SSP’ers have done every summer since). Ironically, to find their asteroids in the sky they first had to look up their positions in an “ephemeris” published by the Russians.
So it was with great relish that these high school students announced, first to their professors then to the press, that they had discovered a rather large mistake in the Russian ephemeris! (The clipping shown here is from the Ventura County Star – Free Press.) SSP students then were all boys from California. In the decades since, SSP has opened up to females, and to students from all over the world. Now about half of each class is female. Recent classes have included girls from former East Bloc countries like Bulgaria and Romania–unthinkable in 1959!