During the Cold War, this Russian mission took the first satellite into orbit around Earth. It caused the Americans to put more effort into their space program in hopes of beating the Russians.
Launched by Russia on October 4, 1957 , Sputnik 1 was the first satellite to be put into orbit. Sputnik, Russian for "fellow traveler," was equipped with two radio transmitters that sent back a continual series of beeps to indicate where the spacecraft was presently located. This allowed the spacecraft to be tracked as it orbited Earth, proving that the 184 pound spacecraft had indeed succeeded.
The launch of Sputnik resulted in an upheaval in American space research. Humiliated aerospace engineers faced the fact that the Soviets not only launched the first satellite that was six times the weight of their own, the Soviets had begun space research a year later than the Americans.
Americans raced to catch up, and their successful launch of the Explorer 1 in January of the following year initiated the Space Race. This was an unofficial competition between the Russia and the United States in space exploration and technology, especially to land a human being on the moon.
As President John F. Kennedy commented in 1962, "...the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them. This country was conquered by those who moved forward, and so will space." Through Sputnik 1, the Russians beat America in launching the first satellite, but Americans were determined to catch up.