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This Week in HistoryThis Week in History: Week 40 (4 October 1957)

First Satellite Launched Into Space

The USSR launches Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth.

In 1957, the world was surprised to see the Soviets launch the first satellite into orbit, with most expecting the USA to be the first to do so. The satellite, named Sputnik 1, transmitted a simple radio signal back to earth for 21 days and remained in orbit for a further 6 months. The USA responded to this great technological achievement by making the conquest of space a top national priority. This marked the beginning of the "space race".

satellite (noun): an object that orbits or goes around a planet or moon in space
USSR (noun): former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union), dissolved in 1991
launch (verb): start; set off; propel into space
orbit (noun): circular path of one object around another object in space
conquest (noun): the winning or achievement of something
priority (noun): a thing regarded as more important than other things

Transcript: Today a new moon is in the sky: a 23-inch metal sphere placed in orbit by a Russian rocket. Here an artist's conception of how the feat was accomplished - a three-stage rocket. Number one, the booster in the class of an intercontinental missile; its weight estimated at 50 tons. A smaller second-stage took over at 5,000 miles-an-hour and carried on to the highest point reached. Five hundred miles up, the artificial moon is boosted to a speed counterbalancing the pull of gravity and released. You are hearing the actual signals transmitted by the earth-circling satellite - one of the great scientific feats of the age.

Quick Quiz:

1. Sputnik 1 remained in orbit

a) for nearly six months
b) for nearly seven months
c) for twenty-one days

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2. While it was in orbit, Sputnik 1

a) transmitted a radio signal
b) raced with US satellites
c) conquested all of space

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3. All satellites, both natural and artificial,

a) have been launched
b) have transmitted
c) are in orbit

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Contributor: Matt Errey