Sputnik I’s Undeniable Legacy

Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite, paved the way for space exploration. This was launched to space, specifically in Earth’s orbit on October 4, 1957, in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Site 1/5. It was part of the Soviet Union space program and the starting point of another degree of competition between the USSR and the United States, which is often referred to as the Space Race. The polished spherical spacecraft weighed 83.6 kg (184 pounds) with a diameter of 22 inches. It could travel a whopping 18,000 mph, passed over the US multiple times a day, and revolved around our planet every one hour and 36 minutes. The nearest point from Earth or the perigee is 143 miles, while the farthest or the apogee is 584 miles.

Sputnik, the Russian word for satellite, functioned for a total of three weeks before its batteries ran out of power. It then quietly orbited for more than two months before it returned into the atmosphere on January 4, 1958.

In accordance with the International Geophysical Year, an ideal timestamp was unveiled by the International Council of Scientific Unions to study our planet and the solar system via an artificial satellite. The Soviet’s investment in technological advancement surely gave the US a pretty good scare after the unexpected launch. However, as the competition heats up, America eventually sent their very own satellite named Explorer on January 31, 1958.

According to Space.com, the main purpose of the first space satellite was to plant a radio transmitter in the Earth’s orbit. After Sputnik I, its sibling, the Sputnik 2, went to space, but this time, it carried a passenger — a dog named Laika. A series of achievements in another degree was also achieved by the Soviet Union, such as sending the first man on space — Yuri Gagarin — carried by Vostok 1, Valentina Tereshkova, as the first woman to be sent into the void, the first mission to send multiple humans in one spacecraft, Vladimir Komarov, Boris Yegorov, and Konstantin Feoktistov.

In addition to these are the first spacewalk, the first to orbit the moon, to impact Venus, the first spacecraft to soft-land on the moon, and the first spacecraft to impact the moon. However, despite these impressive accomplishments, the United States also delivered a good fight by also sending Alan Shepard, the first American sent to space. Also, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong took the credit for being the first human being to set foot on the surface of the barren Moon. This was made possible from the lunar-landing program of the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) with the use of the Apollo 11 spaceship. The undeniable success of America is considered the turning point of the Space Race, with the country snatching the trophy. The Soviet Union, on the other hand, also had multiple attempts and investments to deliver earthlings to the Moon, but all of them failed.

Although the US obviously won the unspoken race, we should not forget or at least give the Soviet Union the due credit as if not for the Sputnik I, the country aforementioned will not step up their game. As for the forefathers of all artificial satellites, Sputnik has multiple backup units and replicas around the world. One backup is caving in Energia’s corporate museum, just outside Moscow, which can only be viewed by appointment. Another unit can be observed in Seattle, Washington, particularly in the Museum of Flight. In comparison to the former, this one is barely hollow, molded fittings and casings inside are the only things it has. Two more backups are in the hands of American businessmen, Jay S. Walker and Richard Garriott, for personal collection. In 1959, the infamous Soviet Union felt the generosity to give a replica to the United Nations, while other models with different degrees of accuracy can be seen in several powerful countries such as the United Kingdom, Spain, and Australia.

Photo Sources:

Cover Photo – Twitter
Photo 1 – NASA
Photo 2 – Twitter
Photo 3 – Twitter