The Space Age was ushered in by the launch of a 83.6km metallic ball, named Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957. When it happened exactly half a century ago, the course of history was changed forever.
‘Sputnik’ is Russian for travelling companion or satellite.
Here’s how a newsreel of Universal International News, screened at cinemas across the US, reported the development:
As one comment, posted by fromthesidelines said on YouTube:
“This was one of the last weekly newsreels seen in movie theaters across the country (thanks to television)- this excerpt, from October of ’57, shows how much of an impact Russia’s “Sputnik” had on space and world affairs. Note that animated “simulations” were used, as Universal did NOT have access to any of the actual footage of “Sputnik” itself!”
Sir Arthur C Clarke, author and inventor of the communications satellite, has just recalled personal memories of that momentous day in an interview with IEEE Spectrum:
“Although I had been writing and speaking about space travel for years, I still have vivid memories of exactly when I heard the news. I was in Barcelona for the 8th International Astronautical Congress. We had already retired to our hotel rooms after a busy day of presentations by the time the news broke. I was awakened by reporters seeking an authoritative comment on the Soviet achievement. Our theories and speculations had suddenly become reality!
“For the next few days, the Barcelona Congress became the scene of much animated discussion about what the United States could do to regain some of its scientific prestige. While manned spaceflight and Moon landings were widely speculated about, many still harboured doubts about an American lead in space. One delegate, noticing that there were 23 American and five Soviet papers at the Congress, remarked that while the Americans talked a lot about spaceflight, the Russians just went ahead and did it!”
And here is how Arthur C Clarke sums up the accomplishments of the first 50 years of space exploration:
“On the whole, I think we have had remarkable accomplishments during the first 50 years of the Space Age. Some of us might have preferred things to happen in a different style or time frame, but when our dreams and aspirations are adjusted for reality, there is much we can look back on with satisfaction. (For example, in 1959 I took a bet that men would be landing on the Moon by June 1969, and lost only very narrowly.) And in the heady days of Apollo, we seemed to be on the verge of exploring the planets through manned missions. I could be forgiven for failing to anticipate all the distractions of the 1970s that wrecked our optimistic projections — though I did caution that the Solar System could be lost in the paddy fields of Vietnam. (It almost was.)”