60 years ago , on October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite into space. Sputnik showed that the Soviets were willing to overtake American technology. The launch was also the beginning of a new episode in the Cold War – the Space Race.
Sputnik looked like a big basketball and weighed 84 kilograms. Two radio transmitters and four antennae were attached to it. The satellite sent out a beeping signal and could be seen on Earth with the naked eye.
The Soviet satellite orbited the Earth over 1,400 times in a period of three months before it burned up in the atmosphere. A month later Sputnik 2 was launched, this time with the first animal on board, a dog named Laika.
Sergei Korolev was the father of the Soviet space program. He oversaw the creation of a booster rocket that sent Sputnik into orbit. Korolev was also responsible for bringing German engineers to the Soviet Union after World War II.
While Sputnik took the rest of the world by surprise, the Soviet Union told their people about the historic launch only a few days later.
In January 1958 the Americans were able to launch their first satellite into orbit. Explorer I remained in orbit until 1970 and was the first satellite to detect the Van Allen radiation belt. Later that year Congress passed a law that created NASA , the American space agency.
- antenna = a long piece of wire used to receive radio or television signals
- atmosphere = the mixture of gases that is around the Earth
- booster rocket = a rocket that has enough power to send a satellite into Earth orbit
- Cold War = unfriendly relationship between the USA and the Soviet Union after World War II
- detect = to show that something existed
- engineer = here: person who can understands how to build rockets and satellites
- episode = time during which something happens
- launch = start ; here: send into space
- naked eye = without the help of a telescope
- orbit = to go around a planet or star
- oversee = to be in charge of ; the leader of
- overtake = here: to do something more quickly than someone else
- remain = stay
- Soviet Union = largest Communist country in the world ; it existed between 1917 and 1991
- space agency = government organisation that controls space travel and the study of space
- transmitter = object that sends out radio signals
- Van Allen radiation belt = particles of energy that are kept together by the Earth’s magnetic field
- weigh = how heavy something is