Russia Launched Sputnik
If you are familiar with the term Space Race, you’ll appreciate the significance of the launching of Russia and the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik. It was put into orbit on October 4, 1957. The Space Race, however, began earlier, in 1955 when Russia answered the challenge of the United States to launch satellites on Earth’s orbit to coincide with the International Geophysical Year. To everyone’s surprise, Sputnik was launched as scheduled and showed that the US was technologically behind as they were only able to launch the following year. Russia then was given credit as the first to launch a satellite, with the US following slightly behind. This competition then heralded the race to achieve space travel milestones.
The Russian-made satellite measured 22 inches in diameter and had a weight of 184 pounds. As it was lightweight, it was able to circle the Earth in one hour and 36 minutes, while speeding at 18,000 miles an hour. Just like the moon, the artificial satellite had an apogee and a perigee, with the farthest at 584 miles and the nearest point at 143 miles. For those with powerful binoculars and a great degree of patience, Sputnik was visible just before sunrise or after sunset. Radio enthusiasts even had fun as the signal being sent by satellite was powerful enough to be picked up by amateur radios.
Many historic firsts
The Space War was a repository of many technological and ideological firsts. Sputnik was the first satellite to be launched. In addition, Explorer I was the first American satellite. It was sent to orbit on January 31, 1958, about four months later than Sputnik I. The American satellite was smaller and lighter at 30.66 pounds.
The Explorer was the first to prove that there was indeed a radiation belt surrounding the Earth. This area of radiation was later named the Van Allen belts, in credit to Dr. James Van Allen who theorized the existence of such belts.
By the time Explorer was launched, however, the Russians have already launched Sputnik II, with a dog inside it. The Soviet space program made massive investments into its projects and achieved various other firsts. It was also the first to send the first man in space by the name of Yuri Gagarin. The first woman was Valentina Tereshkova.
The US was not left out
The United States did not want to be left out of the Space Race and after launching Explorer I, its space program, the government moved to create the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which would become the lead civilian agency in matters related to the space race. Scientists and engineers started working right away and determining requirements for a manned mission. They spent sleepless nights figuring out food, electricity, air, and movement requirements for astronauts who would be sent to space. A few might have even wondered whether insurance companies can provide coverage for astronauts in space.
They finally made a giant leap when NASA sent Apollo 11 to the moon in 1969. They carefully studied the fuel mechanism that would bring the men to the moon. Hydrogen gas proved to be the most stable and NASA successfully used this in the previous Apollo mission, too.
The Moon Landing was the Peak
It was said that when the US landed astronauts on the moon, it was the peak of the US-USSR space war which eventually dwindled from thereon. It could not be denied, however, that Russia made achievements in terms of being the first in space and spurring the US to do its diligent research into the various technologies that would eventually prove useful today. While the technology they used at that time pales in comparison to what we have today, the investments made by these two led to the invention of the many gadgets we now use including LED lights, memory foam, vacuum-packed food, and scratch-resistant eyeglasses. All of these were made possible in part due to Sputnik I.