Thirteen EdOnline
Sputnik's 50th Anniversary: The Beginning of the Space Race
Interesting facts:
  • Sputnik was only 23 inches in diameter but weighed about 184 pounds.
  • At 500 miles up, at the speed of 18,000 miles an hour, Sputnik circled the globe every 96 minutes, making 1,440 orbits around the Earth before beginning its rentry.
  • Sputnik probably broke up somewhere above the western United States. A man in Encino, CA, woke up one morning and noticed something glowing in his backyard. Upon inspection, it proved to be plastic tubing of the type used in Sputnik. No one has been able to prove whether this in fact was part of the satellite.
  • Sputnik 2 contained a dog named Laika, making her the first living creature to enter space. Although food and water were provided to her, she did not survive more than a few hours due to the intense heat.
  • The first Sputnik provided scientists with data about the nature and ion density of the Earth’s upper atmosphere. It was important to know how radio frequencies would work in space and thus whether astronauts would be able to communicate with a base on Earth.
Sputnik 1 (photo courtesy NASA)
Timeline of Space Race
  • 1957 USSR launches Sputnik 1, man's first artificial satellite
  • 1958 USA launches Explorer 1, its first satellite. Discovers Van Allen radiation belts circling Earth
  • 1959 USSR's Luna 2 makes hard lunar landing
  • 1959 USSR's Luna 3 takes pictures of dark side of moon
  • 1961 Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is first man to orbit Earth
  • 1962 American astronaut John Glenn orbits Earth
  • 1962 USA's Mariner 2 passes within 21,500 mi. of Venus
  • 1963 Laser invented
  • 1964 The IBM 360 is introduced and quickly becomes the standard institutional mainframe computer
  • 1965 Soviet cosmonaut becomes first man to "walk" in space
  • 1966 USSR's Luna 9 makes first soft landing on moon
  • 1966 USA's Surveyor 1 makes soft lunar landing
  • 1967 USA's Mariner 4 takes first close-up photos of Mars
  • 1967 USA's Mariner 5 passes within 6,000 mi. of Venus
  • 1969 American astronaut Neil A. Armstrong is first man to walk on the moon, accompanied by Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr
Launch of Sputnik 1. Baikonur, USSR (photo courtesy NASA)
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