On 4 October 1957, the Soviets accelerated far beyond the rest of the scientific world with the launching of Sputnik. Up until the time of launch, the Soviets were able to keep the Sputnik series a secret from the majority of the world. Sputnik I, meaning “fellow traveler” in Russian, was a sphere with a diameter of 2 feet weighing 184 pounds. Although this primitive satellite did not have much instrumentation, it contained two radio transmitters. Collectively, these transmitters gave off a beep that allowed Soviets - and the world ”“ to track the orbit of this satellite. The second phase of the Sputnik series followed only a month after the launch of Sputnik I.

On 3 November 1957, Sputnik II was put into orbit. This second satellite had significant technological improvements. It weighed 1,120 pounds and carried the first organic life into space ”“ a Russian dog named “Laika”. This phase was mockingly nicknamed “Muttnik” by cynical members of other countries. Sputnik II was propelled off of the earth using an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile). The world feared that Sputnik II had been launched with a super-fuel or a nuclear rocket. Unfortunately, this satellite overheated when it failed to detach from its booster, and Laika became the first casualty to space exploration. Laika and her sacrifice for space exploration motivated other countries to go beyond the Soviets and begin a competition for manned space flight.

Almost a year lapsed before the Soviets completed their Sputnik series. Sputnik III was launched on 18 September 1958, gaining the respect of the United States for its vast size and technological improvements. It weighed almost 3,000 pounds and the basic structure was similar to that of Sputnik I. It was used purely for discovery, as opposed to Sputnik II’s quest for life-supporting capabilities. Thus, through the Sputnik series, the Soviet Union was able to jump ahead of the competition and usher the world into the Space Age.


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Page last modified on Saturday 22 of December, 2007 20:17:48 CET by 1.0.