The Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, was launched by the Soviet Union and sparked a change in history that would greatly alter two already feuding places – the USA and the USSR. The “Space Age” or “Space Race” was a race between Russia and the United States for the supremacy of outer space. The Sputnik satellite led to additional funding for the space program in the United States, and the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The creation of the Sputnik I affected both the USA, the Soviet Union, and the rest of the world by leading to sending the first humans into space and onto the moon, the creation of NASA, other space exploration devices such as the Mars rover, and new technologies such as space-based telescopes, satellite navigation, and even non-stick cook pans. “While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U. S. -U. S. S. R space race. ” states NASA. On October 4, 1957, a 184-pound, beach-ball shaped satellite was launched from Baikonur cosmodome in Kazakhstan.
While this is far from the complexities of today’s spacecraft, this satellite, named the Sputnik I, transmitted a series of blips back to the earth that changed the face of space travel forever. The Sputnik I was the first artificial satellite in outer space. It orbited the Earth approximately every 96 minutes, and burned up in the atmosphere after 21 days. In the five decades since the launch of this iconic satellite, we have sent about 6,000 other spacecraft past the earth’s atmosphere. After the Sputnik I, there was new competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for the supremacy of outer space.
With this sudden leap forward into the unknown by a region other than the United States; our country started pouring more funding into the Untied States Space Program. In this way, the Sputnik I led directly to the formation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Space was not an entirely new frontier. There were preexisting space programs in both countries. The United States actually had a satellite, the Vanguard, that was still being tested at the time of the Sputnik.
The project was rushed to be finished, and launch date was set for only about a month after the Soviet Union sent up the Sputnik II, another satellite that contained a dog named Laika. There was disaster, though, and the Vanguard made it about three feet in the air before it exploded. A few years back, there was a controversy over Laika’s fate. The Soviet Union reported that a week into orbit, she was euthanized and died painlessly. BBC news reported in 2002 that this may have been untrue. Laika almost definitely died of panic and overheating when humidity and temperature went up after lift off.
Sergei Korolev was the designer of the Sputnik, in addition to the first manned spacecraft. Korolev was from the Soviet Union, but a poor Communist and was arrested and worked hard labor for a year, but was rescued by a friend and assigned to a top-secret engineering project in Moscow. This helped pave the way for his request to build a non-military satellite to be approved on July 30, 1955. By August 1957, his spaceship was ready. After the Sputnik’s success was transmitted back to Earth by a series of blips, the Soviets were stunned and thrilled.
Unfortunately, in the United States, everyone was indeed stunned but also afraid. They worried that the USSR’s ability to launch a satellite also translated to them being able to launch a nuclear missile. This was in the middle of the cold war, and a terrifying thought, but it also made the Americans to try even harder for the success, yet subsequent failure, of their ship, the Vanguard. It was not all horrible, though – the United States still had a chance of success. Another spaceship was conveniently in the works in case the Vanguard failed.
Barely a month after the Vanguard, the Explorer I was launched flawlessly and its designer, Wernher von Braun, became a national hero. “Even though Explorer I was not the first or even the second satellite in space its instruments were far more sophisticated than those on the Sputniks… ” The Explorer I really was more like a space probe than simply a satellite – it was the first to send back information about outer space from outside the atmosphere. An instrument designed by James Van Allen detected radiation belts encircling the planet, which produce the Auroras at the North and South poles.
The race between the United States and the Soviet Union was obvious in both places. Space travel was a fascinating new idea, and both regions wanted to be in control of it. History on both ends changed, with pride and wonder as they overstepped new landmarks, and the intense competition to be the first for everything. The Soviet union often held this title. They were the first to send a living creature (Laika the dog on the Sputnik II), and then a human (Yuri Gagarin), into space. They landed and unmanned craft (the Luna) on the moon, and the Luna 3 successfully orbited and took pictures of its dark side.
We later managed to have the first man on the moon, which is a victory in itself, and currently have rovers exploring Mars and other spacecraft being created to go even farther. Personally, I believe that the Sputnik I changed the face of space travel, and effected world history on both sides of the globe. Although, had its production been delayed or the idea of it discounted and it never made, I believe that the United States would have been the first to venture into outer space with the Vanguard. “[The Vanguard was]… till in its test stage, but after Sputnik the White House announced that the Vanguard launch on December 6 would not be a test, it would be America’s official IGY launch. ” Since it was still being tested, any problem that caused it to explode might have been caught. The Sputnik hurried everything along, causing us to rush the launch of the Vanguard and subsequently fail it. By starting the race to outer space, though, the Sputnik caused wonder throughout the world, and jump-started the Space Age. Because of it, we have a vast knowledge of many areas outside of the earth’s atmosphere, and are constantly gaining more.