Cause and Effect

Happy birthday Sputnik, a little beeping goes a long way

Sixty years ago today on October 4th 1957 there was a Cold War event that changed the world



Really it's probably just an Estes

Sputnik R7 launch vehicle

The history of the Sputnik and its system have been covered by this site but let’s talk about the impact of it.  The Russians managed to scrounge together a lot of German, American but mostly Russian technology to get an early lead in the space race. We Americans would use small scale tests to see what would fail but the Russians always built full scale to see what would break. It was this maddening method that would allow them to rush forward through the space race.  Yet the Sputnik just represented the same thing that vehicles like the Kalinin K-7 aircraft had twenty years before it. It was just a demonstration of what potential the nation had. That they could do bigger items than any other country in the world.  Sure we could look at this as an ICBM item as well but it was also about trying to one up the US on the world stage for technology. Yet all it was was a shiny metal beeping ball.

When big isn’t big enough


The Russians didn’t sit on their new found toy either. No they would go on and waste plenty of animal flesh in pursuit of putting a man in space. Again that whole trial by full scale which we were far less likely to do. Still looking back on things from immortally glass eyes it is kind of interesting to see how this progressed from both sides. Both countries really benefited with the help of German scientists but don’t think that was their only means.  The Russians were well into rocket research during WWII and were quite good at it.  The Americans had Goddard as well. It’s just hard to discount the value of Werner Von Braun.  So space and ICBM’s went hand in hand for decades but it still fascinated the citizens of both sides and it all started here with this tiny little metal ball and this one rocket. It all started with Sputnik.


Who isn't impressed by this still?

Space X Falcon single stage landing

If you look at today’s pioneers in commercial space they are all in this age group. The children of Sputnik. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson among them. All the facilitators of seeing the future of yesterday become the actual future of tomorrow.  They watched Sputnik as a child and didn’t see duck and cover. Instead they saw space as something to conquer and to look forward to.


  • Victor

    Elon Musk has great vision and Space-X is doing a fine job.

  • Rob Connolly

    I sometimes feel that Elon Musk has walked out of a Robert Heinlein story and into real life. But – more power to him. Incidentally, the band Public Service Broadcasting had a replica Sputnik as part of their stage set last year on the “Race for Space” tour, with a giant digital display built into it.

  • Batshitbox

    I’ve often thought of getting a Sputnik tattoo. It’s been 20 years since my last tattoo.

    More than just a tiny metal ball, it was a tiny metal ball that went beep-beep-beep, and it went beep-beep-beep over the Soviet Union and over Europe and over the United States. If you had a receiver that could tune to 20 or 40 Mhz you could gather irrefutable evidence that there was a satellite passing over you, you could hear something in space! Teachers in classrooms all over tuned in and made kids listen and said, you gotta go do better than this. It made the whole thing much more tangible, this one watt transmitter that spread the word all around the globe that space had been reached.

    Today, Ham radio operators young and old make contact with the ISS, and get that same jazz, “I’m talking to someone in space! with the zero gravity and the vacuum and oy it’s cold!”