On October 4th, 1957, everything changed for mankind. It was the start of the “Space Age” with the launch of the first artificial satellite.
The Soviet Union was the country that launched the first artificial satellite, called Sputnik. It had a diameter of 22 inches and weighed 184 pounds. It was able to circle the Earth once every hour and 36 minutes.
The satellite was covered with an aluminum-magnesium-titanium, 1mm thick heat shield to protect it in space. It has even been said to have been highly polished just for the purpose of being able to see it from Earth in a telescope.
The U.S. government, military, and scientific community were caught off guard by the achievement of the Soviet achievement. Many believed that the U.S. was far ahead of their Cold War rivals and it spawned the government to pour money into resources and education around space. The National Aeronautics and Space Act created NASA on July 29, 1958.