The Space Race The Race to Low Earth Orbit On October 4th, 1957, the Soviets won the first round. A modified R-7 Semyorka/SS-6 "Sapwood" ICBM launched a silver ball into orbit. All it really did was go "beep" on the radio, but it made the American government beep too . Not only had they lost the first leg of the Space Race, but it had come completely as a surprise and made the US realize it was actually somewhat behind with missile technology. With Sputnik 1 ("satellite", also translated as "sojourner", or "fellow traveler"- you've got to like the simplicity of Russian spacecraft names), the USSR had also shown the capacity to drop a nuke anywhere on the planet. The propaganda coup for the Soviets only got better when the hastily-prepared US answer to Sputnik, a small satellite quickly strapped on to a Vanguard rocket developed by the Naval Research Laboratory, blew up on the launch pad after only rising 4 feet into the air. The satellite itself was thrown clear during the explosion and began to mockingly transmit its signals while
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