On October 4, 1957, Russian scientists surged ahead of the United States with their launch of Sputnick I. The “space race” between the two countries was only just beginning.
Russia’s launch of Sputnick I put the United State’s attempted launch of the Vanguard satellite to shame. Sputnick weighed six times more than the Vanguard satellite. The US had attempted to launch the Vanguard into space in December 1957, but had failed. The Russian’s widened the gap between the two countries further when they launched Sputnick II on November 3rd, 1957. However, this time the dog “Laika” was sent into orbit.
The Soviets were beating the United States in the ‘space race’, and they knew it. An article from The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press shows how the Russians believed they would beat the Americans in the space race. For the Russians, it was not just about beating the Americans. Rather, it was scientific and technical advancements that earned the Soviet Union international prestige. It was something for the country to be incredibly proud of. It also was something that could benefit the country in a huge way.
“There is no doubt that the launching of three Soviet satellites in less than a year and the rapid improvement in these satellites testifies to the unprecedented tempo of scientific and technical progess in the Soviet Union and gives us the right to think that these rates will, in the near future, increase still more rapidly for the good of the great Soviet people and all the world’s peaceful working people” (18 Rybkin). The Soviets truly believed they were making technological advancements that would change their way of life.
The First Soviet Satellite Sputnik, FUNET Image Archive. 1997.
Rybkin, F. “Outstanding Feat of Soviet Scientists and Production Workers.” 25 June 1958: 18-19. East View Information Services. Web. 3 November 2013.