Sputnik’s Launching Essay

Throughout all of American history there have been many events that occurred that mark an important turning point, they vary what they influence. One major turning point in space exploration was the first launching of a satellite in 1957. The satellites name was Sputnik. All that could be heard from the artificial satellite was just a series of rhythmic “beeps” on October 4, 1957. Those short beeps came from the first satellite to be launched into space as it passed overhead. Sputnik was a small round artificial moon that became a major turning point in technology and history in years to come.

It was the first satellite to be successfully launched, named Sputnik after the Russian word for “satellite,” was launched at 10:29 p. m. , it was launched by the Soviet Union from the Tyuratam launch base in the Kazakh Republic now known as the country Kazakhstan in 1957 (Geldern par 3). A satellite is an object that orbits another object that is greater in mass due to gravity pulling it in and around. An example is the moon is a satellite orbiting the earth, though in the case of Sputnik, it is a man made satellite.

Now there are about eight thousand satellites in space, approximately five hundred and sixty of those objects in space are actually operational satellites, and the rest are dead satellites, or pieces of space debris (Cain par 3). The Cold War was a time of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States, and Sputnik had added to it because some worried that it was more than a harmless beeping satellite. Though it ended up doing more good than bad because it was the main reason that the United States into rushing to get ahead in the “Space Race”.

The Space Race was a competition existing between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both were racing to become the superior power in outer space, in terms of exploration, it is generally considered as beginning in 1957 with Sputnik and ending in the 1970s (. This in return furthered developments in other technologies. This event paved way for the modern gadgets we use so often today. Sputnik’s launching is a cause for the eventual landing on the moon in 1969 among other modern day items we use everyday.

That small, circular satellite started a ripple that turned into a giant wave of new discoveries sciences and inventions that came to affect a wide array of things we see today. There is no denying the immense impact that the launching of Sputnik in 1957 by the Soviet Union had on the United States and the entire world. “Never before had so small and so harmless an object created such consternation. “?(Boorstin par 1). Sputnik’s launching though wasn’t the beginning of interest in space in the United States.

The fascination with space exploration and technology can be found as far back as 1939 at the “World of Tomorrow” fair (Dickson 14). Many futuristic gadgets and shows were displayed here. Many of these attractions involved space, the moon, and even other planets. Things like “rocket-ports” and even a simulated trip to Venus show (Dickson par. 15). Also the interest in building a satellite in the first place started in 1952. That was the year that the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) (NAS, par 1). When it was established that July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958 was the International Geophysical Year (IGY).

Both the United States and the Soviet Union wanted to be the first to launch an artificial satellite during the IGY to be able to map the Earth’s surface. Of course the “winner”, the one to first launch the satellite was the Soviet Union with Sputnik in 1957. Though at the time it was very advanced the first satellite, Sputnik had a simple design. Sputnik itself was only about twenty-two inches in size, shaped like a sphere and had four long antennae coming out behind it from the sides and had radio transmitters that transmitted the incessant beeps.

Which is about the equivalent of a beach ball. Despite its size, it weighed one hundred and eighty-four pounds, which was about eight times the weight of the one planned to be launched by the United Sates. It was powered by batteries and was silver in color. It was powered for a few weeks, than stayed up in space for a few months before it eventually fell back down to earth burning up. Sputnik was always between three hundred to fifteen hundred miles above the earth; it was even possible to sometimes be able to spot Sputnik from the ground.

It traveled about eighteen thousand miles per hour this meant that it took about an hour and a half to orbit the earth once in its elliptical path. Sputnik 1 provided the first opportunity for meteoroid detection since losses in the internal pressure due to meteoroid penetration of the outer surface would have been evident in the temperature data that was recorded. This was one of the things that Sputnik did to further science discoveries. The man made moon was engineered by engineer Sergei Korolev. Sputnik wasn’t just seen as a Soviet success but also a United States failure.

For previously the United States had been seen as having the upper hand in the Cold War, after the launch, that view changed. A newspaper stated that the Soviet Union only beat the United States by months. There was even a “pre-Sputnik olive branch” When Soviet Scientists asked their American counterparts to supply some equipment for the satellite. Also on November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik II, but this time it carried a live female dog, Laika, which means “barker”. Laika later died from lack of oxygen.

The first Sputnik, though, made the United States place national priority upon space technology, and because of the rapid advancement as the United States scrambled to catch up, new developments were made in science and engineering that led to creations of things such as the internet and personal computers. Sputnik had launched a newfound interest in space exploration and science. Following the appearance of Sputnik, Eisenhower said he welcomed the launching of Sputnik, declaring that it helped to establish the principle of “freedom of space. It was a term that meant that Space was a neutral place it couldn’t be claimed by any nation or region. It also helped to realign an alliance between the United States and Britain. In spite of those words many Americans where unnerved by the Soviet’s achievement.

Americans viewed Sputnik as a demonstration of Soviet ability in rocketry that meant that they could potentially launch intercontinental ballistic missiles that could be nuclear. Newspapers did their best to down play the event with statements such as,” our scientists have been perfecting their satellites instead of concentrating on scoring first. In a book Sputnik: the shock of the Century, by one who was alive during the event, the author writes “Fascination and astonishment engendered by the launch of Sputnik remains fresh in our minds. ” The first U. S. effort to launch a satellite failed when its Vanguard rocket exploded during lift-off. It was not long, though before Wernher Von Braun, a German engineer who had worked for Adolph Hitler, put the United States in space on January 31, 1958, when a Jupiter-C rocket sent Explorer 1 into orbit, and it led to the discovery of the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth.

He was also a scientist who developed the Saturn Rockets that went to the moon (. Because of the tense feelings between the United States and the U. S. S. R. during the Cold War, the government secretly, with the help of the Criminal Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Air Force began work on a spy satellite called Corona. The spy satellite was meant to help find the Soviet missiles (Dickson par 20). The Sputnik launch also led directly to, Congress passing the National Aeronautics and Space Act.

Commonly called the “Space Act”, it created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) In July 1958 (Garber par 6). In 1962, the United States put John Glenn Jr. in space and he became the first American to Orbit Earth. President John F. Kennedy went so far as to even put a time for when the United States would reach the moon saying that the U. S. would “put a man on the moon before the decade is out. ” in 1961 (Garber par 4). Which happened as promised in 1969, the astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin landed on the moon.

These were all direct results of Sputnik and the increase in research of technology that had occurred because of it. The modern technology today, the landing on the moon, all happened because of a beach ball sized bleeping sphere that orbited around the Earth. The Satellite Sputnik, compared to today, is an extremely simple piece of technology. It was a silver sphere with a single radio transmitting a series of beeps that could be picked up by any other radio anywhere. Today satellites have the ability to do much more. It almost seems surprising that such technology could have made such a huge impact on today.

But it did and back in 1957 Sputnik was no small feat for it took a few years for the Soviet Union and the United States as well to be able to come up with a model that would be able to be launched successfully, despite things like temperature problems. It was the starter of the space between the United States and The Soviet Union, who both worked diligently to overcome the other. It affected developments in science and if Sputnik never took place, many of our electronics would not exist today. Sputnik set off a huge chain reaction.

It pushed the United States to scramble to get ahead as fast as possible, especially because before Sputnik, the United States Considered themselves to be the leader in Scientific advancements. After Sputnik, and Sputnik II the United States saw they were well behind, they realized that they needed to catch up. The first successful satellite launched, Sputnik, was the start of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union and marked a major turning point in American history and scientific history as a whole for it plowed a large path for the making of modern day technology.

It allowed for new discoveries in science and was the main cause for main future events, along with the event that led to the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or better known as NASA. Sputnik though a simple technology was a huge scientific achievement for a plethora of things to come and be made. The launching changed a great deal of things and was quite an important turning point in history.


Secondary sources:

Steve, Garber. “sputnik.” N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2013. .

Geldern, James von. “Sputnik: year 1957” 2010

Cain, Fraser. “satellites.” October 2009.

How Many Satellites are in Space?

primary sources:

“United press.’ October 6, 1957.

Jorden, William J. “The New York Times” October 5, 1957.

Dickson, paul. “Sputnik: Shock of the Century.” PBS: NOVA. Web. 31 Jan. 2013. .