Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, blast-off! These words rang in the air sixty years ago on October 4, 1957, as the Soviet Union (known as Russia today) launched the world’s first artificial satellite.
Hours later, as it began its orbit, the notorious beeping sounds began. These beeps were the satellite transmitting to Earth for the first time ever.
The satellite’s name was Sputnik and its launch was an unpleasant surprise to the United States. It made it seem like the United States was far behind in the realm of technology and space exploration.
The Space Race
This competition may seem trivial, but it was actually part of a much bigger conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States, called the Cold War. During World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States were on opposite sides, and when the war ended, the tension remained.
This era of conflict which began at the end of World World II, and lasted all the way until 1991, is now known as the Cold War. Although the Cold War was not truly a war as you might imagine it, it did pit two major world forces against each other. The Soviet Union and the United States were caught in a competition to see who could advance further in many areas. During this time, space became a major point of interest.
In response to the launch of Sputnik, the United States launched its own satellite, called Explorer 1 in 1958, and the Space Race began. The Space Race was essentially a race to see who could make the fastest advancements in space exploration.
Although the launch of Sputnik gave the United States a scare, the United States ultimately “won” the Space Race by putting the first man on the moon in 1969. Still, it is important to acknowledge the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, an event that “launched” a crucial period of time for major advances in space exploration!
Check out the video below to watch a special CBS report broadcast from the United States about Sputnik just days after it was launched!