October 4, 1957 – The event that pushed America to Polaris

Rather than being a sign of achievement, Sputnik created a universal atmosphere of fear in the Western nations.

The fear was that if the Soviets could launch a satellite that high into the atmosphere and sustain an orbit, what would stop them from launching nuclear weapons.

That fear most certainly helped to spark the drive to build a weapons system called Polaris and the submarine fleet that would be needed.

“On Oct. 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 successfully launched and entered Earth’s orbit. Thus, began the space age. The successful launch shocked the world, giving the former Soviet Union the distinction of putting the first human-made object into space. The word ‘Sputnik’ originally meant ‘fellow traveler,’ but has become synonymous with ‘satellite’ in modern Russian.

This historic image shows a technician putting the finishing touches on Sputnik 1, humanity’s first artificial satellite. The pressurized sphere made of aluminum alloy had five primary scientific objectives: Test the method of placing an artificial satellite into Earth orbit; provide information on the density of the atmosphere by calculating its lifetime in orbit; test radio and optical methods of orbital tracking; determine the effects of radio wave propagation though the atmosphere; and, check principles of pressurization used on the satellites.”

Image Credit: NASA/Asif A. Siddiqi



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