October 4, 1957: Sputnik Launches into Space

On this day in 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. This launch marked the beginning of the Space Race, where the United States and the Soviet Union competed rapidly to develop new space technology.

Explore NOVA’s Space Race  timeline for an interactive look at the heated competition between the two nations. 

Photo: The world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 was a 183-pound beach ball-sized sphere that took about 98 minutes to orbit Earth (NASA).


Человек и Вселенная (Man and the Universe) by Alexei Leonov and Andrei Sokolov, 1976. Artwork by Andrei Sokolov, whose paintings was carried into space in 1971 on Soyuz 11 and transferred to the space station Salyut I for the first orbiting art exhibition. (Sadly, the Soyuz 11 crew died on re-entry when their capsule depressurized and the Salyut I station was allowed to deorbit and crash into the Pacific while the capsules were being redesigned)

Author Alexei Leonov was the first person to “walk” in space in 1965 and led the Soviet crew on the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975. He is also an accomplished artist.