Launch of the Space Age
October 04, 2002
October 5 is the 120th birthday of one of the leading rocket scientist pioneers, Robert Goddard. Although Goddard's rockets, and those who came after him, had been successfully launched into our upper atmosphere, no payload broke the bonds of Earth's orbit prior to the launch of Sputnik 1. In the early 1950s, Soviet rocket engineers realized that their new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) rocket, known affectionately as "Old Number Seven," could not only blast a nuclear warhead thousands of miles, but it also could carry a payload to such speed and altitude that it could potentially orbit the Earth - an artificial Earth satellite could be created. On October 4, 1957, 45 years ago today, the 183 pound (83 kg), beach-ball-sized Sputnik 1 was launched into history. Sputnik had an elliptical orbit that circled our globe in only 98 minutes.
The Sputnik launch also led to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (referred to as the "Space Act"), which created NASA as of October 1, 1958 from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other government agencies.