World Cup 2018: A Satellite, Soccer Balls, and Spectacular Space Images

June 14th, 2018 by Adam Voiland

The Telstar satellite (left) and the 1974 Telstar Durlast, the official ball of the 1974 World Cup. Image Credit: Bell Labs/Shine 2010

Goooooooal!!!! The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked off on June 14, 2018.

Here’s a bit of Cup trivia you may not know. In 1962, NASA launched a small, spherical communications satellite called Telstar that ended up altering the look of the balls used in the World Cup.

Telstar was the first active communications satellite and the first commercial payload in space. By sending television signals, telephone calls, and fax images from space, the 3-foot-long satellite kicked off a whole new era in telecommunications—and soccer ball design.

There’s a direct line between the distinctive black and white patterning of Telstar’s hull and solar panels and the Adidas ball used as the official ball of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico and the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. While earlier generations of soccer balls were brown and did not show up well on television, the 1970 and 1974 balls featured the now iconic 32-panel design of alternating white hexagons and black pentagons, a pattern that closely resembled Telstar. Fittingly, that first ball was called Telstar Elast; the official ball in 2018, a nod to the 1970 ball, is called the Telstar 18.

To celebrate the World Cup, Earth Observatory is planning to dig into its archives. For key games, we’ll grab one image for each of the two countries going head to head. Can you guess which image goes with which country? Just click on the images below to find out. Enjoy the tournament!

June 14:
Russia  5  — 0  Saudi Arabia

 

June 15
Uruguay  1 — 0 Egypt

Iran 1 — 0  Morocco

Portugal 3 — 3 Spain

 

June 16
France 2 — 1 Australia

 

Iceland 1 — 1 Argentina

Peru 0 — 1 Denmark

 

Croatia 2 — 0 Nigeria


June 17

Costa Rica 0 — 1 Serbia

Brazil 1 — 1 Switzerland

Mexico 1 — 0 Germany

 

June 18
Sweden 1 — 0 Korea Republic

 

Belgium 3 — 0 Panama

Tunisia 1 — 2 England

 

June 19
Colombia 1 — 2  Japan

Poland 1 — 2  Senegal

Russia 3 — 1  Egypt

 

June 20
Portugal 1 — 0  Morocco

Uruguay 1 — 0  Saudi Arabia

Iran 0 — 1  Spain

June 21
Denmark 1 — 1  Australia

France 1 — 0  Peru

Argentina 0 — 3  Croatia

June 22
Serbia 1 — 1  Switzerland


Nigeria 2 — 0 Iceland

Brazil 2 — 0 Costa Rica

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