October 4, 1957: Sputnik 1 Is Launched
Today in 1957, the USSR's Sputnik 1 was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Sputnik 1 was the first artificial satellite to orbit Earth, and is generally considered a major catalyst for the Space Race and Cold War. Sputnik 1 took just over 96 minutes to complete each orbit. After three weeks, Sputnik's transmitter batteries died, but it continued to orbit Earth on its own for 2 more months. By the time it achieved it's atmospheric re-entry on January 4, 1958, Sputnik 1 had completed 1440 complete orbits of Earth and traveled a total distance of roughly 70 million km (43 million miles).