The Space History Museum
A Virtual Museum & Community


Space Buff Level I

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In December 1957, America was finally ready to launch its first satellite, Vanguard.

Since the October launch of Sputnik 1, the Russians had launched a second satellite, Sputnik 2 (in November 1957). This satellite had a passenger, Laika—a dog. Sadly, Laika would never return and would, in fact, die in space. Nonetheless, the launch of a massive satellite carrying a living passenger was a spectacular accomplishment. The pressure was on for a success American satellite launch.

Launch was scheduled for December 6, 1957. The 3-stage rocket lifted off and promptly collapsed, after rising perhaps 4 feet off the launchpad. The satellite itself landed some distance away, transmitting data from its resting place on the ground. This was a humiliating defeat, seen worldwide. The somewhat damaged satellite is today on display in the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C.