Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  Contact Us
Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 2 Issue 39 | October 07, 2007|


   News Room
   Photo Feature
   Tech Wise
   Science Feature
   Author Profile

   Star Campus     Home

Science Feature

Sputnik-1: 50 years Triumph on Space & The Impact


Following World War II, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United States of America embarked on rapid programmes of development in respect of missiles, nuclear weapons and space programs. The Soviets got the upper hand by launching the first satellite in orbit named “Sputnik-1”. This 4th October was the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik-1 launch.

Sputnik 1 ("Satellite-1", or literally "Co-traveler-1" byname ÏÑ-1, PS-1, Elementary Satellite-1) was the first artificial satellite to be put into geocentric orbit. Launched by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957, it was the first satellite of the Sputnik program.

The satellite helped to identify the density of high atmospheric layers by its orbit change and provided data on radio-signal distribution in the ionosphere. Because the satellite's body was filled with pressurized nitrogen, Sputnik-1 also provided the first opportunity for meteorite detection, as losses in internal pressure due to meteoroid penetration of the outer surface would have been evident in the temperature data. The unanticipated announcement of Sputnik-1's success precipitated the Sputnik crisis in the United States and ignited the so-called Space Race within the Cold War.

In order to beat the USA into orbit, Korolyov, Soviet spacecraft designer, suggested launching two small satellites during 1957, ahead of the one he originally proposed. The Soviet government agreed to Korolyov. On 4th October 1957 at 19:28 GMT, a R7 missile carrying world's first artificial satellite Sputnik-1 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome (located in present Kazakhstan).

The satellite traveled at 29,000 kilometers (18,000 mi) per hour and emitted radio signals at around 20.005 and 40.002 MHz which were received by scientists and ham radio operators throughout the world. The signals continued for 22 days until the transmitter batteries ran out on October 26, 1957. Sputnik-1 burned as it fell from orbit upon reentering Earth's atmosphere, after traveling about 60 million km (37 million miles) in orbit.

The Sputnik-1 satellite was a 585 mm (23 inches) diameter sphere which is about the size of a basketball, made of highly polished 2 mm-thick aluminum AMG6T alloy, carrying four whip-like antennas between 2.4 and 2.9 meters (7.9 and 9.5 ft.) in length. The antennas resembled long "whiskers" pointing to one side. It had two radio transmitters (20.005 and 40.002 MHz) and is believed to have orbited Earth at a height of about 250 km (150 mi). Analysis of the radio signals was used to gather information about the electron density of the ionosphere.

Temperature and pressure were encoded in the duration of radio beeps, which additionally indicated that the satellite had not been punctured by a meteorite. Even today you can hear the sound of the Sputnik's beeps! You can hear the sounds of Sputnik in the following web address, http://fiftiesweb.com/pop/sputnik.wav

The Impact
The Sputnik launch occurred back in the days when the Americans and the Russians regarded each other as enemies (also known as the "Cold War"). They built massive armies, navies, and air forces and were prepared to engage in global war at a moment's notice. American military manuals regarded the Russians as "The Threat," and Soviet government went as far as training many non-military citizens on use of small arms to prepare for an invasion from "The Imperialists."

Everyone in the United States were constantly reminded that the Russians were well on the way in conquering space and newspaper headlines, "REDS ORBIT ARTIFICIAL MOON" and "SOVIET SATELLITE CIRCLES GLOBE EVERY 90 MINUTES".

The surprise launch of Sputnik 1, coupled with the spectacular failure of the United States' first two Project Vanguard launch attempts, shocked the United States, which responded with a number of early satellite launches, including Explorer I, Project SCORE, and Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The purpose behind ARPA was to research new technologies that where too risky to the private industry. In 1969 they created the ARPAnet to research transfer protocols between computers across systems, the predecessor to the Internet. The Sputnik crisis also led to the creation of NASA as the single agency to mobilize U.S. resources to beat the Reds to the stars, and major increases in U.S. government spending on scientific research and education.

Sputnik-1 has paved the stone for the mankind to reach beyond orbit; later several USSR programs of Sputnik, Soyuz, Mir, and USA's Challenger, Apollo lifted the thoughts of space researchers. Now International Space Station is on the orbit, Phoenix is going to Mars for searching life in the red planet and more to come for sure. The rivalry in space, even though it had military reasons, has pushed mankind forward. Our achievements today are rooted in that competition.

Email : mahmud2saber@yahoo.com


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007