October 5, 2011

Happy 54th birthday to Sputnik I and the space race

by Lauren Gold
Oct 04, 2011

The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I into Earth orbit 54 years ago today, winning the first lap of the space race to the shock of the United States.

“Without a doubt, Sputnik I was a huge milestone in the history of the space race. It marked the first time that humans successfully flew something higher than the boundaries of the earth’s atmosphere,” said Michael Smutko, distinguished senior lecturer of physics and astronomy at Northwestern University.

The 184-pound, shiny, spherical satellite could be seen with the naked eye, and ham radio operators picked up its beep. Suddenly, the Soviet Union had surpassed the U.S. in science. In the midst of the Cold War, the Soviets had the technology to place spacecraft in orbit over the U.S. It was an advantage no one had had until that point.

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A Soviet technician puts the finishing touches on Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite launched on Oct. 4, 1957.

Roy Welch, W0SL, and ham friends listening to Sputnik-I on October 9, 1957 at the State Fair of Texas. Doc Dallas News

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