Exploration and Settlement

Space: The Final Frontier

When did the exploration of space begin?

The “space age” began on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik (later referred to as Sputnik 1), the first artificial satellite. The world reacted to the news of Sputnik, which took pictures of the far side of the moon, with a mix of shock and respect. Premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971) of the Soviet Union immediately approved funding for follow-up projects. And leaders in the West, not to be outdone by the Soviets in exploring the last frontier, also vowed to support space programs. Four months later, the United States launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958. Not only had the launch of Sputnik initiated the space age, it had also started a “space race”: The Soviet and American programs would continue to rival each other, with one accomplishment leap-frogging the other, for about the next three decades.


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