The Space History Museum
A Virtual Museum & Community

Course

Space Buff Level I

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In a worldwide celebration of science and technology, many nations worked together (and competitively) to advance science in what was known as International Geophysical Year. IGY actually ran more than a year and covered parts of 1957 and 1958. In any case, during this period space technology was on everyone’s minds and both America and Russia prepared to launch the first human-created Earth orbiting satellite.

Most expected the Americans to lead the way. American science was well-regarded and the Russian Soviets were believed to be behind.

So when the Russians launched their satellite, Sputnik I, on October 4, 1957, the world—especially Americans—was shocked. The Soviets hailed their achievement as a victory for communism. Eisenhower wasn’t worried but his quiet confidence was no match for the panic of the American public. America HAD to match the Soviet achievement.

The space race had begun. And the Russians were leading.

The first Sputnik was a metal ball with protruding antenna for communications. It emitted beeps that any ham radio operator (a popular hobby at the time) could pick up those beeps.

Eisenhower and the Americans worked to launch their first satellite, Vanguard, before the end of the year 1957.

In a worldwide celebration of science and technology, many nations worked together (and competitively) to advance science in what was known as International Geophysical Year. IGY actually ran more than a year and covered parts of 1957 and 1958. In any case, during this period space technology was on everyone’s minds and both America and Russia prepared to launch the first human-created Earth orbiting satellite.

Most expected the Americans to lead the way. American science was well-regarded and the Russian Soviets were believed to be behind.

So when the Russians launched their satellite, Sputnik I, on October 4, 1957, the world—especially Americans—was shocked. The Soviets hailed their achievement as a victory for communism. Eisenhower wasn’t worried but his quiet confidence was no match for the panic of the American public. America HAD to match the Soviet achievement.

The space race had begun. And the Russians were leading.

The first Sputnik was a metal ball with protruding antenna for communications. It emitted beeps that any ham radio operator (a popular hobby at the time) could pick up those beeps.

Eisenhower and the Americans worked to launch their first satellite, Vanguard, before the end of the year 1957.


The Soviet success with Sputnik motivated the United States to concentrate its space efforts in a new agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. President Eisenhower signed a bill creating NASA, which went into operation on October 1, 1959.