From Sputnik-1 to walking on Mars

Sputnik-1became the first man-made satellite or orbit Earth 58 years ago. Thanks to this achievement, it became the trailblazer for every spacecraft that followed.

Sputnik-1 was a very tiny satellite that after being sent into orbit, was celebrated, and proved that that technological advances in human space travel was not confined to Earth, according to

The plan itself for Sputnik was that of Soviet rocket scientist Sergei Korolve. In 1954, he presented the idea, which came one year prior to U.S. President Eisenhower’s plan to launch an artificial satellite during the International Geophysical Year (IGY).

The Soviets did not take the agenda lightly. Prior to selecting the exact parameters for the proposed Sputnik-1 mission, they analyzed dozens of plans, until they were convinced they had a successful mission on their hands. Part of the initial drive was also ignited by the beating their American opponents to a plausible agenda.

The competitive nature of the mission pushed the minds of all those involved and resulted in a change of plans. The launch now seemed more plausible with a lighter and easier to construct satellite, “Object PS,” in comparison to the original, much more ambitious, “Object D,” satellite.

The world’s first intercontinental ballistic missile was to be launched by R-7 Semyorka designed by Korolev which first flew in 1957 when it successfully took air on its fourth attempt carrying a dummy warhead. But the R-7 went forward to form the basis for the Luna, Vostok, Voskhod, Molniya and Soyuz families of rockets. And since then, all Soviet and Russian maned spaceflights have been launched using rockets derived from the R-7.

A modified R-7 rocked called Sputnik 8K71PS was then created to perform the historic launch of the Sputnik-1 satellite. Chief constructor at OKB-1, Mikhail S. Khomyakov, designed the small satellite that was made from two hemispheres, with a 1 mm-thick outer skin heat shield sealed using O-rings and connected by bolts.

The mass was only 184 lb which is less than 10 percent of the mass of the previously-planned “Object D” satellite. Sputnik-1 carried two pairs of antennas which allowed the satellite to transmit beeps with equal power in every direction. Sputnik-1 was protected by a cone-shaped payload fairing and the set was kept at Site No. 1, which is presently known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The exact time of the launch was: 19:28 UTC on October 4, 1957. Sputnik-1 was sent into orbit of 139 by 590 miles at a much lower apogee than was planned. But in less than 20 seconds, Sputnik-1 announced that it made it through the intense pressures of the launching phase, an absolutely amazing technological amazement at the time. The ground station was able to detect the satellite’s “beep” tones for 2 minutes before Sputnik-1 fell below the horizon and out of their communication realm.

The Sputnik took 96.2 minutes to complete an orbit. At this time, Korolyoy called Soviet premier Khrushchev which ignited the first release to the public via the Soviet news media. The data that Sputnik transmitted back to Earth was the first of its kind type of data on the density of the upper atmosphere as well as information on the propagation of radio signals through the ionosphere.

For three weeks, Sputnik continued its transmitting. But at that time, its onboard chemical batteries failed. This created a massive propaganda coup for the Soviets.

The signal from Sputnik was easily picked up by military observers and amateurs alike. The American media took part in sharing the success of the Soviets. This in turn fueled the passion of the U.S. to support its own ambitions in space.

Sputnik spent three months in space and traveled nearly 43.5 million miles, which was approximately 1,400 complete orbits. When it came to its end, it burned up in the atmosphere, but by that point, the unexpected success of the plan of Sputnik was spreading. But it also fueled the space race between Cold War rivals. Sputnik was followed by the first operational U.S. satellite launch, the Explorer, in 1958.

The Soveits however continued to set the pace for space-time with the successful launch of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1 mission in 1961. This was followed in 1965 by the first spacewalk of Alexey Leonoy.

By this time, it was the launch of humans into space, rather than satellites, that blazed the trail. In 1969, the U.S. succeeded in the successful mission of Apollo 11 which put man on the surface of the Moon. But this has not turned-off the passion of the Russians, or any other nation, in terms of space travel, despite other political and economic pressures.

Presently, the U.S. pays Russian to launch and return their astronauts to and from the International Space Station, which is set to continue through the decade. As for the future. Russian is on a steady path to continue spacetravel efforts, including a possible Moon walk which NASA is focusing on the launch of humans to the surface of Mars by the late 2030s.



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