Satellites enhance our lives in so many ways — in a way, they are the digital fabric that makes up modern societies. They allow us to use GPS technology and telephone people around the world, they enable for accurate weather reports and keep us safe as they are often used for surveillance. It’s hard to imagine a time when humans didn’t have satellites in orbit.
Sputnik means “traveling companion”. Photo credit: Courtesy NSSDC, NASA.
That time began exactly 60 years ago on October 4, 1957 when Sputnik 1 was launched into orbit by the Soviet Union. It was the first human-made object to ever be successfully launched into space.
This basketball-sized sphere, made from aluminum alloy, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Southern Kazakhstan at 10:28pm (Moscow Time.) Sputnik spent just over three months in space before burning up in Earth’s atmosphere. In that time, it completed 1,440 orbits of the Earth and managed to achieve its five primary objectives.
Photo credit: NASA/Asif A. Siddiqi
These objectives were to: 1. Test the method of placing an artificial satellite into Earth orbit; 2. Provide information on the density of the atmosphere by calculating its lifetime in orbit; 3. Test radio and optical methods of orbital tracking; 4. Determine the effects of radio wave propagation through the atmosphere; and 5. Check principles of pressurization used on the satellites.
World Space Week 2017 coincides with the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1 and serves as a great way for us to look back at the history of space — not just on a global scale, but here in Australia too. Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts to find out more!
And in the meantime, check out this Sputnik 1 infographic courtesy of space.com:
Photo credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com contributor