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At the end of this block of study, you should be able to:

5.42 Identify the country which launched the world's first artificial satellite.
5.43 Know when the field of aviation expanded and changed to aerospace.
5.44 Discuss America's reaction to the Soviet Union's satellite launch.

The United States and most of the world was surprised on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik the world's first artificial satellite. It was at this point flight was extended into space, and the field of aviation expanded and changed to aerospace.

The impact on the Western powers was immediate. The United States realized the same rocket carrying Sputnik could also deliver a nuclear weapon. The country also realized that the Soviet Union had gained a great deaf of prestige In the eyes of the smaller countries In the world.

Priority was given to putting an American satellite into orbit and at the same time developing an operational missile for the United States. The first of these was accomplished on January 1, 1958, with the launch of Explorer I. The second would be longer in coming. The Atlas was tested twice in September 1957, but both launches failed. By December 1957, the Atlas was successfully launched; however, it flew only 600 miles. It would be the end of 1959 before Atlas was perfected and included in the Strategic Air Command's inventory of deterrent weapons.


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Updated: 12 March, 2004