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Man Faces the Future 1957-1965


On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union announced to an astonished world that its scientists had launched into orbit an artificial satellite of the earth. The Russians called the satellite “Sputnik,” or little moon. With the invention of the air plane, man had broken the bonds that confined him to the earth; now he could go beyond the ocean of air that surrounded the earth and explore the wonders of space. The way was open for discoveries that promised to surpass those of the age of exploration of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The United States sent up its first satellite, Explorer I, on January 31, 1958. It weighed only three and a half pounds, but three months later the Russians launched a Sputnik that weighed 3,000 pounds. By the end of 1960, the Russians were launching space ships and on April 12, 1961, they sent up the first man in outer space; he landed successfully after making one orbit around the earth. The next year, two more “cosmonauts,” as the Russians called them, made space flights, to be followed by three more in 1964. One of Russia’s most spectacular feats in space came on March 18, 1965, when a cosmonaut left his space ship and floated in space for ten minutes while traveling at a speed of 17,000 miles an hour. Meanwhile, the United States was also making extraordinary progress. The first American “astronaut” went into space on February 20, 1962. Other astronauts soon followed, although they did not remain in orbit as long as the Russian space men. Whilst the United States still lagged behind the Soviet Union in the size of its spaceships and the thrust of its rockets, it was ahead in other forms of space exploration. By 1965, American satellites were transmitting radio and telephone …

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