Sputnik 1

Sputnik 1

On Oct. 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 successfully launched and entered Earth's orbit. Thus, began the space age. The successful launch shocked the world, giving the former Soviet Union the distinction of putting the first human-made object into space. The word 'Sputnik' originally meant 'fellow traveler,' but has become synonymous with 'satellite' in modern Russian.

A crowd gazes upon one of seven Sputniks produced by the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik 1 satellite on October 4, 1957, surprising the world and starting the space race. The 183-pound (83-kilogram) spacecraft whipped around the Earth every 98 minutes, transmitting a series of beeps. Sputnik means "companion" in Russian.

Sputnik 1 launched on a Soviet R-7 rocket to Earth orbit on October 4, 1957, the first artificial satellite in space.

This historic image shows a technician putting the finishing touches on Sputnik 1, humanity's first artificial satellite. The pressurized sphere made of aluminum alloy had five primary scientific objectives: Test the method of placing an artificial satellite into Earth orbit; provide information on the density of the atmosphere by calculating its lifetime in orbit; test radio and optical methods of orbital tracking; determine the effects of radio wave propagation though the atmosphere; and, check principles of pressurization used on the satellites.

A Soviet technician works on Sputnik 1 before the satellite's Oct. 4, 1957 launch.

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