Thursday 4 October 2018


Spanning from 1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958, the International Year Geophysical Year was a global science project called to thaw some of the frostiest periods of the Cold War that severely curtailed information exchange between the East and West and presented a grave threat to facing problems that affected the planet, no matter what one’s political leanings were.
Among the accomplishments of the scientific venture was the Antarctic Treaty, preserving the continent for peaceful and cooperative research and international data clearing houses where all researchers could freely share meteorological and seismological reports and promote its ongoing collection. The IGY also sparked some competition that could be characterised as more serious than merely friendly with both the Soviet Union and the US pledging to construct artificial satellites and beginning the Space Race. Originally designated as Object D, the satellite was to carry an array of scientific instruments to measure cosmic radiation and solar winds—which were eventually launched as Sputnik-3, but due to the complexity and anxiety that the Americans might indeed be the first to launch, researchers simplified the scope of the mission to radio transmission.
On 4 October 1957, the rocket carrying Sputnik-1 launched from the Tyuratam range in the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (presently the Baikonur Cosmodrome) and orbited the Earth once every ninety-six minutes for three weeks, its highly polished surface visible to keen observers and continually broadcasting a “beep-beep-beep” that could be intercepted by any amateur radio operator when it came in range. After its batteries ran out in those first weeks, it remained aloft for another two months before burning up on re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere, having completed fourteen hundred-forty circuits around the Earth and travelling a distance of over seventy million kilometres. The Americans eventually launched the Explorer I satellite on 31 January 1958 but not before the USSR launched Sputnik-2 just under a month after the start of their first mission, this time with a living passenger.