October 4, 1
Sputnik is a polished metal sphere made of aluminum alloy. It was 23 inches (58 cm) in diameter – about the size of a beach ball – and weighed only 184 pounds (83 pounds). Its four external radio antennas were designed to transmit radio pulses. And they were broadcasting. For 21 days in 1957, people all over the world heard an unacceptable beep on the radio.
Want to hear it? Watch the video below.
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The pressurized sphere had five basic scientific tasks: to check the process of placing an artificial "moon" in Earth's orbit; provide information about the Earth's atmospheric density calculated from Sputnik's lifetime in orbit; test radios and optical orbital tracking methods; determine the effects of the propagation of radio waves through the Earth's atmosphere; and check the pressure principles that can be applied to satellites around the Earth's orbit.
The Sputnik sound signal was a symbol not only of the remarkable achievement of Soviet Russia, but also of the fact that many at once assumed that it was Russia's advantage in space. The American public feared that the Soviet apparatus's ability to launch satellites would also turn into the possibility of launching ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons from Europe to the United States.
Obviously, the next step was to place a living creature in space. On November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik II, this time carrying a much heavier payload, including a stray dog named Laika, picked up from the streets of Moscow just over a week before the launch of Sputnik II. Unfortunately, according to the BBC, Laika died within an hour of panic and overheating. More about Laika from Time.com.
Sputnik I and Sputnik II send shock waves around the world. The American political leadership tried to catch up. Eventually, this additional impetus led to the fact that on July 20, 1969, the United States sent the first astronauts to go to the moon.
For a musical preview of the sudden arrival of the space age, listen to "Surprise!" Leslie Fish on fandom.com.
beep beep. Boop Boop. Hi there!
The satellite floats, giggling across the sky
Red flags, red faces, jump in the race as
The space age begins with a surprise.
Result: On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I into Earth orbit, and the space age began. Hear the sound of Sputnik in orbit in this post.