An unlikely memorial runs across the middle of the marketplace in Kettering — an otherwise unremarkable English market town. This slab of granite, set into the paving as part of a timeline of local history, reads "Russian Satellites: Grammar School Beats Nasa". Etched into the stone is the distinctive outline of a sputnik orbiter.
Kettering Grammar School — like the space race — is long gone. But for a period it was on the front line of the extraterrestrial battle between Washington and Moscow. The Kettering Group — the school's enthusiastic science masters and their eager pupils — became the world's foremost amateur satellite sleuths, tracking secret Soviet launches and uncovering the location of a previously secret Russian cosmodrome from the workaday shire town.