Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sputnik I

Let’s hop once into into the Wayback Machine and set the dial for October 4, 1957. When we arrive we see the smoke billowing from beneath the rocket. A moment later it begins rising into the sky. And at the very tip of the rocket is the satellite that started it all.

Sputnik 1 was the world's first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite. Launched into a low altitude elliptical orbit by the Soviet Union, it was the first in a series of satellites collectively known as the Sputnik program. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik 1's success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the Space Race within the Cold War.

Sputnik-1 was launched during the International Geophysical Year. This was an undertaking by 68 nations and involved exploration into the arctic, the sea, and outer space. Sputnik helped to identify the upper atmospheric layer's density, through measuring the satellite's orbital changes. It also provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere.

During its journey, the satellite traveled at 18,000 miles per hour. It emitted radio signals which were monitored by amateur radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on October 26, 1957. Sputnik 1 burned up on January 4, 1958 as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after traveling about 37 million miles and spending 3 months in orbit.

Today's video contains a documentary of the program. As mentioned earlier, it was a bit of a surprise to American that the Russians had beaten us to the punch. A month later, Russia launched Sputnik II, carrying a stray dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, and she became the first living creature launced into space.

I remember well those fall and winter evenings when the sky was clear and the millions of stars winked in the heavens. It wasn’t unusual on those nights to see Sputnik travelling across the night sky. If you spent time gazing at the stars and looking for Sputnik, leave a comment and tell us about it. I can't be the only one who remembers it.

Can I?

1 comment:

Ralph said...

I remember sputnik. We thought that Russia was going to whip our tails. And we stepped up. Instead of whimpering like we do today.