The Space Race
During the Cold War, both America and Russia were rushing to produce massive stockpiles of weapons and also to advance their technology as quickly as possible. One of the major goals of both sides was to launch a satellite into space before the other could.
While America seemed to be taking their time, believing that spacecraft wouldn’t be possible to be produced for a number of years, Russia had successfully completed their first design in the “Sputnik 1.” They launched it into orbit on October 4, 1957, and although it only sent back signals for about twenty-eight days, it was still enough to shock the Americans into hurrying their design for their own satellite. In fact, they hurried so much that their first launch failed because the rocket carrying the satellite exploded during lift-off. However, after some minor adjustments, on January 31, 1958 America too had effectively launched their own satellite, the “Explorer 1” into orbit. They could not do this, though, before Russia was able to put a larger-and more stable- “Sputnik II” into space, this time carrying the dog Liaka, the first living being from Earth to be in space.
Written by Peter Mungenast for History Salon
Milestones of Flight: Sputnik 1. Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. http://www.nasm.si.edu/exhibitions/gal100/sputnik.html
(Accessed October 13, 2011)