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Sputnik 1

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Today is the sixtieth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1, the world's very first artificial satellite. The announcement came as a major shock, particularly in the USA, who were preparing their own satellite. When details were released, many in the West doubted the accuracy - Sputnik weighed 83.6kg (184lb) and some believed that the decimal point had been misplaced, as it was many times bigger than the Vanguard satellite that America was building, which tipped the scales at only 1.47kg (3.2lb).


But the numbers were correct, and even though Sputnik carried no scientific instruments - just a transmitter whose 'beep-beep' signals could be picked up easily - it kick-started the Space Race. Sputnik ceased broadcasting on 26 October when its batteries ran down, but it remained in orbit, visible through telescopes, until 4 January the following year. By then it had been joined in orbit by its successor, Sputnik 2 - but that's another story. 

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Taken in Moscow in 2008 - at the Central House of Aviation.....




In October 1957 (I was aged 10),  we were on a troopship travelling to Hong Kong - when they announced over the tannoy that they were picking up transmissions from Sputnik 1 - and we could gather in the lounge to hear it.


I can remember being slightly disappointed at the constant 'beep, beep, beep' - I think I was expecting something mind-blowing - which it was, really - just not to a 10 year old.



Edited by Flankerman

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