Sixty-six years ago last month, the shock felt by many space scientists began.
It was on Oct 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the Earth’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik I.
Its successful launch came as a shock to experts and citizens in the United States, who had hoped the United States would accomplish this scientific advancement first.
The Sputnik launch marked the start of the Space Age and the US-Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ Space Race, and led to the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA, with headquarters in Washington, DC, and exercises management over the NASA Field Centers, establishes management policies, and analyzes all phases of the ISS program.
Launched in 1998 and involving the US, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the participating countries of the European Space Agency, the International Space Station is one of the most complex international collaborations ever attempted.
Experts recall the world had never seen this technology, and the possibilities and dangers were endless, sparking fear across the globe.
Sputnik is largely considered to be the “starting point” of the Space Race because of its effect on both countries’ national agendas.
Then President John Kennedy began a dramatic expansion of the US space program and committed the nation to the ambitious goal of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.
The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project marked a real and symbolic end to Apollo and the Space Race of the 1960s.
To highlight reduced international tensions the United States and Soviet Union undertook, after years of intense rivalry, their first cooperative mission in space.
To date, there are four countries – Russia, United States, China, and India – which have sent spacecraft beyond the earth’s atmosphere, or plain outer space.
Only three nations – Russia, United States and China – have launched their own crewed spacecraft, with the Soviets/Russians and the American programs providing rides to other nations’ astronauts.
India itself has launched a rocket in 2023 to study the sun, a little over a week after its successful unmanned landing on the moon’s south pole.
The Aditya-L1 rocket, carrying scientific instruments to observe the sun’s outermost layers, blasted off a few weeks ago for its four-month journey.
The mission is seen as an important step for further lunar exploration and India’s standing as a space power, as the country becomes the fourth nation to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon after the United States, China and Russia.
Very little has been said on its 66th anniversary, and many in this Digital Age may not be as excited as those who watched on television later man’s moon landing in July 1969, 12 years after Moscow sent into orbit the Sputnik 1.
The launch of Sputnik 1 took place from a site now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The batteries ran out on Oct. 26, 1957, after the satellite completed 326 orbits.
The core stage of the R-7 remained in orbit for two months until Dec. 2, 1957, while Sputnik 1 orbited for three months, until Jan. 4, 1958, having completed 1,440 orbits of the Earth.
Officially, Sputnik was launched to correspond with the International Geophysical Year, a solar period that the International Council of Scientific Unions declared would be ideal for the launching of artificial satellites to study Earth and the solar system.
Documents and historical files on the Sputnik 1 suggest the rocket booster also reached Earth orbit and was visible from the ground at night as a first magnitude object, while the small but highly polished sphere, barely visible at sixth magnitude, was more difficult to follow optically.