Soviets beat U.S. - first into space

United Press
A replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in the world to be launched into outer space. The replica is stored in the National Air and Space Museum. Photo courtesy of NASA
A replica of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite in the world to be launched into outer space. The replica is stored in the National Air and Space Museum. Photo courtesy of NASA

Oct. 4, 1957 Russia Friday night announced the first successful launching of an earth satellite.

Hours after the announcement, the tiny "moon" was seen hurtling through the sky in various parts of the United States.


Soviet scientists hurled the satellite into space earlier Friday and sent it spinning around the earth at a speed of 18,000 miles an hour and at an altitude of 560 miles, the announcement said.

The sphere-shaped man-made "moon" was equipped with a radio transmitter sending signals to earth stations.

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Within a few hours radio receiving stations began picking up the satellite's signal. Radio Corporation of America Communications Division reported hearing it in New York and the British Broadcasting System caught the tiny pulsating signal in London.

The Naval Research Laboratory at Washington announced that it recorded three passes of the "moon" over the United States.

The launching beat the United States by at least several months in the program to hurl an artificial moon into space during the current International Geophysical Year.

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The artificial moon project was the most imaginative venture of the IGY and one of man's biggest steps toward solving the mysteries of space. It was also the first stage in Russia's declared plan to send space ships to earth's moon, Mars and Venus.


The Soviet announcement made by the Tass News Agency called the launching a "tremendous contribution to the treasure house of world science and culture."

In Washington some of America's most distinguished scientists agreed that the satellite opened "a new era in science." They showed no rancor at being beaten into space by the Soviet engineers, and, as one of them put it, "We are all elated that it is up there."

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The Russians said their satellite is 22 inches in diameter, or about twice the size of a basketball. It weighs about 184 pounds, and it is expected to have a life of about three weeks.

The announcement said the satellite's orbit was inclined at an angle of 65 degrees to the equatorial plane. It gave no details of the orbit, however, and U.S. scientists were trying to work it out.

According to the announcement, the satellite has two radio transmitters sending signals at 20.005 and 40.002 megacycles, which were reported strong enough to be picked up by amateur shortwave radio operators around the world.

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Completing its announcement, the Tass agency said, "Artificial earth satellites will pave the way for space travel ... ."

In Washington, American scientists said they hope to learn more about the weather, the sun, ultra-violet radiation from the sun, and other scientific mysteries from the eventual launching of the U.S. 20-inch artificial moon, which would circle the earth at a distance of from 300 to 1,500 miles at 18,000 miles an hour.


The Russian announcement said that at dawn Saturday the 22-inch diameter satellite would be visible to watchers in Russia using only binoculars or small telescopes. It said the satellite would pass over Moscow twice on Saturday.

A dispatch from the official Tass news agency broke the news of the momentous scientific achievement as part of the program of the International Geophysical Year. The announcement was broadcast immediately by Moscow Radio.

The dispatch did not disclose the launching site.

No advance announcement had been made of the launching plan. It was apparent that the Soviet Academy of Sciences waited until the satellite was successfully established in its moon-like orbit before revealing the achievement.

Moscow radio beamed the news of the launching around the world so that scientists, radio amateurs and International Geophysical Year experts could track the tiny sphere.

The announcement said the satellite was "successfully launched in the U.S.S.R. on October 4." It added that other satellites would be launched later.

According to preliminary information, the "carrier rocket has imparted to the satellite the required orbital velocity of about 8,000 meters a second," Moscow radio said.

The rocket launching was the signal for radio amateurs and astronomers across the world to tune in on their sets to pick up signals from it. Telescopes were set at observation posts organized for the International Geophysical Year program.


A proposed timetable for launching satellites, then manned rockets, into the solar system was revealed in a Moscow publication about a week ago.

"According to calculations which are now being supplemented by direct observation, the satellite will travel at altitudes of up to 900 kilometers (560 miles) above the surface of the earth," the radio broadcast said.

It added that "a complete revolution of the satellite will take one hour and 35 minutes."

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