October 4, 1957: a little 83.6 kg (184 lb) object entered the microgravity environment of Low Earth Orbit. With this unprecedented achievement, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics became the first nation to place an artificial satellite into orbit. Now 60 years after the inauguration of the Space Age, SpaceX has plans to establish a human settlement on Mars within the next decade – plans that are ambitious and carry numerous technical challenges that harken back to how the Space Age first began.
Sputnik 1 – How it all began:
It was, to say the least, ambitious.
What ultimately became Earth’s first artificial satellite dates to 17 December 1954 when chief Soviet rocket scientist Sergei Korolev proposed the creation of an artificial satellite.
The idea didn’t gain widespread traction within the Soviet military until 29 July 1955, when U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced that the United States would launch a satellite during the International Geophysical Year, which would extend from 1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958.
One week after President Eisenhower’s announcement, the Politburo of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union officially approved the proposal to create an artificial satellite.
The satellite was called “Object D” ...