Sputnik 1 was the first human-made object to orbit the Earth. Designed and launched by the Soviets in 1957, Sputnik sparked the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States.
When the Sputnik was launched in 1957, it shocked the world. Even though Sputnik was just 22 inches in diameter (slightly larger than a basketball), the Soviets' successful launch of a satellite thrust the United States into a space race that paralleled the arms race of the Cold War. The satellite, which was designed to reveal information about the density of the upper atmosphere, transmitted signals to Earth for 21 days and burned up in the Earth's atmosphere on January 4, 1958. Some consider the Sputnik launch a major motivator for the United States goverment's establishment of NASA just a year later.
The Science Center's Sputnik 1
The Sputnik 1 on display at the Science Center is a full scale model of the satellite. The model was built especially for the California Science Center by Movie Miniatures Inc.