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Sputnik Mission to Earth

Goals: Sputnik was the opening shot in the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union. The basketball-sized spacecraft was the world's first artificial satellite. It orbited the Earth sending back a beeping signal for 23 days.

Accomplishments: Sputnik created shockwaves back on Earth. It was an amazing technical achievement followed only a month later by the stunning launch of Sputnik II, which carried the first living thing - Laika the dog - into space. The U.S. responded in January 1958 with the launch of Explorer 1. Another American response to Sputnik: The creation of NASA in October 1958.

Key Dates
4 Oct 1957:  Launch
4 Jan 1958:  Re-entered Earth's Atmosphere
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Sputnik Facts Sputnik was about the size of a basketball. It weighed only 83 kg (183 pounds).

Sputnik orbited the Earth every 98 minutes sending back a beeping signal for 23 days.

Sputnik's designer, Sergei Korolev (above), went on to head Russia's Vostok, Voskhod, Zond and Kosmos programs.

NASA was created as a direct result of the Sputnik surprise.
Science & Technology Features
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Last Updated: 1 Dec 2010