Sputnik and The Dawn of the Space Age
History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite. It was about the size of a beach ball (58 cm.or 22.8 in.), weighed only 83.6 kg. or 183.9 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. It stayed in orbit for 6 months before falling back to Earth. Its rocket booster, weighing 4 tons, also reached orbit and was easily visible from the ground. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. 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.
Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL