Soon after Sputnik’s launch, the military realised that spacecraft would be great for reconnaissance – spysats. These are now commonplace.
A girl takes a close look at the world’s first artificial. satellite, the Soviet-made Sputnik I. Credit: Reuters
It’s been 60 years since the Soviet Union fired the first salvo of the space age. On October 4 1957 it launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, as its contribution to International Geophysical Year.
It was the first of a series of superpower spectaculars, each bringing soft power – the term political scientists use to describe states doing something benign which boosts their prestige. The USSR followed Sputnik’s launch by sending Yuri Gagarin, the world’s first cosmonaut, into space on 12 April 1961. He was followed by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman to orbit the Earth, on 16 June 1963. The US landed 12 Americans on the moon between 1969 and 1972.
A great deal has changed in the past 60 years. Sputnik weighed 83kgs. The International Space Station weighs 419 tons, carrying a crew of six astronauts, performing a variety of experiments in microgravity. Many countries have their own space policies and space science has developed all over the world including ...