Friday, October 05, 2007

50 Years of Sputnik

Engineers, military officials and former cosmonauts on Thursday celebrated the 50th anniversary of the launch of the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik, which marked the dawn of the Space Age and sparked the race to land a man on the moon.

Ceremonies were held at the Russia's cosmonaut training center, Star City, outside of Moscow and engineers were to gather at the Academy of Sciences to recall the events leading up to the Oct. 4, 1957, launch of the spikey, 184 pound (83-kilogram) metal ball that beeped as it circled the globe for some 22 days.

Military officials held a small ceremony to lay flowers at the grave of the father of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolyov, who was buried with honors at the foot of the Kremlin walls.

The success of Soviet engineers in launching Sputnik stunned the world, and was followed just four years later by another historic achievement - the launch of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space.

Sputnik galvanized the U.S. government to pour money into space research and technology with the goal of landing a man on the moon - an event that occurred nearly 12 years later.

"Of course speaking just for us specialists (the launch) sparked an unexpected furor around the world. No one expected this, even including our engineers," Viktor Frusmon, a co-worker of Korolyov's, said in a televised comments Thursday.

- Pravda.Ru, 10/04/2007 05:54

As a child, I was hugely fascinated by the cosmos and Man's remarkable attempts to reach even further.

The celebration of the this astonishing feat brings back happy memories; of hours spent over my picture-books on space travel. Sputnik had been one of my favourite satellites - it was not the most sophisticated nor advanced, it was certainly the cutest.

Wow, 50 years ago today. It is amazing how a little metal ball single-handedly jump started North America's science education and space programmes. We've certainly come a long way since then.

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