60 years of Sputnik launch, mankind's first step towards space exploration

The Soviet Union had launched the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik on October 4, 1957

We all know that Elon Musk recently announced his plans of shipping humans to Mars and colonizing the moon. He is quite confident about achieving this ambitious feat within the next seven years. Yes, maybe we are that close to space travelling. However, do we still remember how and when it all started? Let's just refresh our memory a little. It all began exactly 60 years ago when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial Earth satellite on September 4, 1957. The first ever satellite, with a tiny aluminum sphere and four spider leg-like antennae capable of sending out a regular series of radio beeps, did achieve several remarkable feats – it marked the beginning of space exploration for mankind, took the Cold War to outer space and literally shook up the American technological superiority.

Although Sputnik showed off the prowess of the Soviet Union, it was the German scientists, working for Adolf Hitler, who were standing at the forefront of this huge space achievement in the history of mankind.

As per Phys.org, the founder of the Soviet space programme, Sergei Korolyov had said that it was one German scientist, Nikolai Shiganov, who made it possible for Sputnik to reach the orbit. Shiganov was one of the scientists behind the Soviet rocket R-7, as per the report.

"The Korolyov bureau had to create an intercontinental rocket capable of carrying a hydrogen bomb to any point on the planet," now 97-year old Shiganov told AFP during an interview.

Although Sputnik was a huge step towards the future for mankind, the satellite itself was the second priority of the inventors. "The most important thing was that it proved the effectiveness of the R-7 rocket," said Shiganov.

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As per the legendary scientist, he didn't know that the satellite has been launched on October 4, 1957, for sure until he heard of it on the radio. It was launched from a testing range in Kazakhstan, the future Baikonur cosmodrome, said the report.

Two days after the launch, Shiganov could spot a glimpse of the satellite with his naked eye. "It was a tiny dot which shone in the sun because of its glossy surface," he said.

Sputnik was in the orbit for 92 days and completed 1,440 circles around the Earth before it lost control of speed and burnt in the atmosphere.