This day in Tech History, Sputnik!

60 years ago on this day the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 into orbit, shocking people around the world  and bringing a new focus to the sciences in the United States education. The Sputnik 1 was a satellite designed to transmit short pulses that were detectable with just a simple radio receiver on the ground. This meant that amateur radio operators around the world were able to tune in to 20MHz and 40MHz to hear Sputnik’s beeps. Sputnik didn’t have much in the way of science equipment on board, so the only way scientific data could be discovered from Sputnik is from the frequency of the beeps. Scientists were able to estimate on the composition of Earth’s upper atmosphere by taking what they received from the Sputnik’s pulses, and looking at how the frequency / intensity of them changed as the Sputnik got closer to the horizon. The Soviet Union launching the Sputnik, and later launching Laika up, was what got Americans interested in beating the Soviet Union in space. And eventually, beating them to the moon.

 

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