One of the greatest achievements of man was the first space satellite, Sputnik. Launched by the Russians 50 years ago, Sputnik was the first man-made object to orbit the Earth. It didn’t do much; it was more proof-of-concept than anything, but it acted as a catalyst for the Space Age, igniting the Space Race that is now stalled. The thing is, Sputnik was a hack.
The man behind the project had to convince the Kremlin to give him a rocket for the project, and had to convince others to leave his “simplest satellite” as-is. The thing is, the Kremlin was barely behind the project, and the brass in Moscow didn’t grasp the significance of it. Only after the launch, when worldwide attention was spilled on the orbiter, did Russia start its posturing.
There’s a lot more to Sputnik than we can fit here, but the article is a great and revealing read for anyone who’s into vintage space exploration, or for those who miss the Cold War. I know I do.
Secrets of 1957 Sputnik Launch Revealed [Space dot com]