Uploaded on Oct 4, 2010
It was on this day fifty-three years ago that the Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite.
Sergey Korolyov's original plan was to use his R-7 Semyorka to launch a 1400kg payload fully equipped with all kinds of scientific instruments, named "Object D".
The Soviet Union purely wanted the R-7 to be used for military purposes and saw the satellite program as immaterial. A side-salad. But Khrushchev still gave Korolyov the go ahead.
Development on Object D hit some snags along the way however. The contractors kept sending parts when, upon delivery, didn't fit where they were supposed to go. This put delays on the program. To had insult to injury, Werhner von Braun's Jupiter-C was hailed in the American press and Korolyov feared loosing the milestone of first satellite to the US.
So a decision was made to strip "Object D" down to an 84kg package containing only a few radio radio transmitters. This would secure Russia the position of being the first to launch a satellite and the original Object D concept would be postponed to a later date.
In retrospect, Korolyov had nothing to worry about. Although von Braun had perfected his Jupiter-C in 1956, it was derived from his Nazi V-2 rocket. The American government was reluctant to let their first satellite be launched using Nazi technology. They wanted their first satellite to be 100% made in the USA. So the satellite contract went to the US Navy, who were still in the process of finalizing their plans when Sputnik launched! When the Navy's Vanguard was launched in response, the newspapers appropriately carried headlines like "Flopnik" for obvious reasons.
The world feared Sputnik when it soared over our heads. American citizens knew that if the Soviets could do put a satellite in orbit, they also had the capability to fire a nuclear warhead at the US.
Although crucified in the American media at the time and although it lacked the capabilities of the more elaborate Object D (later flown as Sputnik 3), the Sputnik 1 remained a peaceful first step in the exploration of space. It paved the way for what the general public take for granted. Now a days there are literally hundreds of satellites in space orbiting earth as I type this. Satellites that we depend on for every day use. We have also sent probes out to other planets. We have put humans into space.
We would like to commemorate the Sputnik for paving the way in scientific progress.
October 4th 1957