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This Day In History: The Soviet Union Launches Sputnik, The First Man-Made Space Satellite

October 04, 2016

This day in history, October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first man-made space satellite.

The satellite, built by Valentin Glushko, weighed 184 pounds and was launched by a converted Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Sputnik orbited the earth every 96 minutes at a maximum height of 584 miles. Sputnik traveled at about 18,000 miles per hour.

The event was timed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. In 1958, it reentered the earth’s atmosphere and burned up on January 4, 1958. It spent roughly 3 months in orbit and and traveled about 43.5 million miles. It was followed by 9 other Sputnik spacecraft.

The result of the successful launch caused a sense of fear in the eyes of the American public as they were shocked that the Soviet Union were capable of conducting such launches. The United States was portrayed as being well behind the Soviet Union and they needed to catch up. The Space Race had begun.

The United States soon started pushing math and science in the education system. Also, both DARPA and NASA were created as a result of the Soviet Union launching the satellite.