SPUTNIK TURNS 60
Sputnik, the world's first man-made satellite, entered space 60 years ago on October 4, 1957.
Happy Birthday Sputnik! Chances are, you've probably heard of this old timer. If you know anything about space exploration history, and hey if not, like I said in my first post, no judgement. It's not like this was one of the most important moments in history (it was).
Back in the 1950s and 60s the good ole space race between the United States and the Soviet Union was alive and well. Why'd you think we got to the moon so fast? Peer pressure. Sputnik was technically known as Sputnik 1 or PS-1, and was built and launched by the Soviet Union. After it successfully launched and entered space, the U.S. had to one-up the Soviets by putting man on the moon. But I digress, we'll talk about the moon another time.
Sputnik's main body was pretty small, only 23 inches wide and weighing 184 pounds. Giving it its insect-like legs were two double-barreled antennas, the longer almost 13 feet long. Even with the antennas Sputnik was tiny compared to modern satellites. NASA's Cassini satellite (RIP, gone too soon) was roughly the size of a school bus.
Sputnik used just three silver zinc batteries and lasted three months in space with radio signal lasting 22 days. This shocked the U.S. NASA historians said that Sputnik was the catalyst to the foundation of NASA. The U.S. not only wanted to be better, but was fearful that the Soviets advances in space technology could mean they were developing better ballistic missiles and the ability to use nuclear weapons from space. This also pushed the president (Eisenhower at the time) to advance scientific education through the National Defense Education Act shortly after Sputnik's launch in 1958.
Sputnik is also the reason for satellite surveillance. Because the satellite traveled over the U.S. in orbit, it established a norm that U.S. (and any other country) could fly their satellites over the Soviet Union and other countries as well. So, thank you Sputnik for sparking critical advances to space education and research, but I don't think my country is quite over the oh sh*t moment you put us through.
Sputnik 1 courtesy of NASA History Office