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First Sputnik Launched: A Small Sphere Changes World

4 october 2017

Sixty years ago to the day, on October 04, 1957, the first artificial satellite (sputnik) was launched into Earth’s orbit. This success of the USSR helped to start the international space exploration program.

The dream of conquering the sky took shape in the early 20th century with the development of aviation, which (in a literal and figurative sense) «gave wings» to engineers. It took several decades of hard work of research institutes and design bureaus to create and launch the sputnik. In this process old technologies were improved and new technologies were developed. In the 1930s, for example, along with solid-fuel rockets, rockets of different purposes with liquid engines were also tested. We will not doubt the talents of Soviet engineers, but it would be unfair to say that their inventions are based solely on the research conducted in the Soviet Union. In particular, the first suborbital flight in human history was made by a missile based on the prototype of the German V-2 missile, which covered distances of up to 320 km.

Initially, the sputnik was designed to measure such cosmic phenomena as the ionic composition of space, corpuscular radiation of the Sun, cosmic rays, magnetic fields and other space phenomena. It was a requirement that the mass of the sputnik the mass with all the equipment necessary for research not exceed 1,200-1,700 kg. The launch was scheduled for 1957-1958. However, due to problems with getting the equipment ready, a simple sputnik of PS-1 type with two radio transmitters was launched into orbit. The sputnik had a spherical shape with the diameter of 58 cm, and weighed just 83.6 kg.

The missile carrier was launched on October 4, 1957 at 10.28 p.m. from the Tyura-Tam testing grounds, the future Baikonur Cosmodrome. Soon the signal of the sputnik from the Earth’s orbit was received by radio amateurs all over the world.

PS-1 remained on the orbit of the Earth until January 4, 1958, and made 1440 revolutions around the planet, each of which took 96 minutes.

The importance of this event for the entire world could not be overestimated. In addition to its scientific significance, the launch of this small aluminum ball into orbit was of enormous political and social significance, changing the balance forces between global powers and shifting the development focus from nuclear weapons to space exploration.

For many people the day of October 4, 1957 became a day of great change in life, as it opened new horizons and opportunities and gave their hopes and dreams to achieve more in their lives. Sixty years ago, many people learned, what it felt like to live at the times when the impossible became possible, and what had seemed beyond reach suddenly came true.

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