In 2016 there were roughly 4,256 satellites orbiting Earth. Before 1957 there were none. That all changed with the launch of Sputnik I from Russia on October 4, 1957. Sputnik I was roughly the size of a beach ball and could orbit Earth in around 98 minutes.
This was the first major victory in the “Space Race” between the United States and the Russians. In december of 1957 the US also tried to launch an Earth orbiting satellite. The launch of the Vanguard satellite by the Americans however was unsuccessful. Then only 4 months later the Russians put another satellite into space. This time with a living creature. Laika the dog launched in the Sputnik II satellite was the first living creature in space. Tragically Laika died within hours of the launch.
Laika in the capsule she would be in during her brief Space stay.
After these first few launches the space race between the Soviets and Americans heated up drastically. Billions of dollars were funneled into the space programs of both countries. The Soviets won other major victories, such as Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man to orbit the earth, and with Luna 2 being the first space probe to hit the moon. The space race would continue until the US “won” by landing astronauts on the moon.
During this time there was a feeling of great adventure, and thoughts of the endless possibilities of space travel. As can be seen in an article from the Current Digest of the Russian Press from 1958, Leonid Ivanovich Sedov stats; “I think that you young people will witness the unveiling of the mysteries of Mars, to which flights will be made within the next 20 years, according to my assumptions”. (Sedov) This shows the thoughts and feelings of the academic community, as well as the people in general. Space was the new frontier and everyone wanted to explore it.
You can read the full article by Sedov Here: ———
6 thoughts on “Sputnik and the Space Race”
Great post! It would be really interested to read newspaper articles from the American point of view when they were behind in the space race, I don’t imagine they were very happy about it.
The Soviet Union and the United States through this competition really show the determination and really arrogance to be better than the other. This competition for sure still lives on today.
Great opening to this post. We take satellites for granted now, but my guess is that most people have no idea how many are up there! Catherine’s question about the American press would be worth following up. Also, check out Anderon’s post on Sputnik from last week: https://ap2cr.wordpress.com/2018/04/02/sputnik-revisited/comment-page-1/#comment-17
I really liked your post because it shows the intensity of the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. The desire and need to have satellites in space was a major issue and turning point in the Cold War, as it allowed for greater military capabilities.
I wish we still had the same enthusiasm to go to Mars as people did during the Space Race. That said, the Space Race was a great way to show off your rocketry program and flex your military muscle. Solid post! I liked the inclusion of the Sedov article.
I still can’t get over the fact that they sent Laika into space with absolutely no chance of making it back down to Earth alive. Did anyone ask if Laika had survived the space flight, or did the Soviets just announce that they were the first nation to have a dog die in space?