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60 years ago, Sputnik shocked the world and started the space race

It was 8:07 p.m. on a Friday night in Riverhead, Long Island, when the operators at an RCA Communications outpost picked up a signal that had never been heard before on Earth. A sharp, insistent beep sang out over short-wave radios, filling up our ears with the knowledge that humans had succeeded in sending something outside our protective blanket of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. Within hours of the announcement, diligent searchers of the skies—all volunteer amateur astronomers who had trained for this moment—assembled, and confirmed with their eyes what our ears already knew. In Terre Haute, Indiana; Whittaker, California; and Columbus, Ohio, these stargazers tracked a faintly shining object as it sped around Earth at 18,000 miles per hour, heading from west to east across the darkened sky. The appearance of a second, 184 pound moon in the skies above America shocked the nation, not in the least because our new moonlet had been sent there by the rival Soviets. Newspaper reports at the time asked the man who oversaw America’s yet-to-launch satellite program, Rear Admiral Rawson Bennett, for a reaction to Sputnik’s launch. He replied by saying that the push to put satellites in space had never been conceived of as ‘a race.’ To which the entire world responded; “Yep, uh-huh, sure, this isn’t some kind of space race or anything.” Read More: Popular Science

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