A Ball in Space

By | Oct 4, 2008

It was on October 4, 1957 that the Soviet Union took the first step in what has been called the US-USSR Space Race. It was on that date that they put Sputnik I into Earth’s orbit.

The first artificial satellite was 58 cm or 22.3 inches in diameter. This is just a little over twice the size of a basketball which has a diameter of 9 inches. The craft weighed 83.6 kg. or 183.9 pounds.

Its orbit around the Earth was elliptical and took 98 minutes to complete each orbit.

Sputnik 1 spent 3 months, 1440 orbits, in space before it fell back into the Earth’s atmosphere and burned up on January 4, 1958. In all it traveled about 60 million km or 37 million miles.

Less than four months later on January 31, 1958, the United States launched Explorer I. It carried a small scientific payload and from the data that was recorded it was discovered that there was magnetic radiation belts around the Earth. These belts were named after James Van Allen who was the principle investigator.

A month later on November 3, 1957, the Soviet’s launched Sputnik 2. This satellite was larger than Sputnik 1 and also carried the first animal in space, Laika, a dog.


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