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Sputnik 1
Photo courtesy of NASA.
...the first human-made object to orbit the Earth. Designed and launched by the Soviets in 1957, Sputnik sparked the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.

Launch date: October 4, 1957
Launch vehicle: R-7 missile
Launch location: Tyuratam, Kazakh Republic, Soviet Union (now Kazakhstan)

Size: 56 centimeters (22 inches) in diameter
Weight: 83 kilograms (183 pounds)
Time to orbit Earth: 96 minutes
Maximum altitude: 939 kilometers (583 miles)

Photo courtesy of NASA.

When the Sputnik was launched in 1957, it shocked the world. Even though Sputnik was just 22 inches in diameter (slightly larger than a basketball), the Soviets' successful launch of a satellite thrust the United States into a space race that paralleled the arms race of the Cold War. The satellite, which was designed to reveal information about the density of the upper atmosphere, transmitted signals to Earth for 21 days and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere on January 4, 1958. Some consider the Sputnik launch a major motivator for the United States goverment's establishment of NASA just a year later.

The Science Center's Sputnik 1
The Sputnik 1 on display at the Science Center is a full scale model of the satellite. The model was built especially for the California Science Center by Movie Miniatures Inc.

Sputnik Links
Sputnik and the Origins of the Space Age
This fascinating page by Roger Launius chronicles the American response to the Sputnik launch. Among the details about the paranoia and fear that followed the launch, Launius reveals that the Soviets timed the launch to coincide with a party at the end of an international scientific conference for maximum impact.

Sputnik and the Dawn of the Space Age
NASA developed this brief page about Sputnik, which features a sound file of Sputnik 1's telemetric beeps as it passed over the United States.

The Beep Heard Round the World
Scientific American marked the fortieth anniversary of Sputnik 1's launch with this article, which includes another perspective on the effects of the Sputnik launch on the United States and the world.

Satellite Situation Report
A visit to this page, which includes a count of most of the satellites that have orbited the Earth, is a great way to see the effects of Sputnik on today's skies.

The Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center
See the space race from the other side when you drop in on this site for the home of the Russian space program.

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