October 4, 1957 -- The Soviet Union inaugurates the "Space Age" with its launch of Sputnik,
the world's first artificial satellite. The spacecraft, named Sputnik
after the Russian word for "satellite," was launched at 10:29 p.m. Moscow time from the Tyuratam launch base in the Kazakh Republic. Sputnik
had a diameter of 22 inches and weighed 184 pounds and circled Earth once every hour and 36 minutes. Traveling at 18,000 miles an hour, its elliptical orbit had an apogee (farthest point from Earth) of 584 miles and a perigee (nearest point) of 143 miles. Visible with binoculars before sunrise or after sunset, Sputnik
transmitted radio signals back to Earth strong enough to be picked up by amateur radio operators. Those in the United States
with access to such equipment tuned in and listened in awe as the beeping Soviet spacecraft passed over America several times a day.