Happy Birthday, Space Program

Happy Birthday, Space Program

Today is the space program’s 55th birthday and the beginning of World Space Week.

The Space Age began on October 4, 1957 with the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union.  Although both the United States and the Soviet Union had publicly committed to launching satellites as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) — an 18 month (July 1957 – December 1958) global scientific undertaking to study geophysical phenomena on Earth — few expected the Soviets to be the first to succeed.  The Sputnik surprise galvanized the U.S. space program and sparked the Space Race that characterized the first decades of the space program.

Today, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States and Russia are partners in the International Space Station, along with Canada, Japan and 11 members of the European Space Agency.  Rivalry is still there, no doubt, but it is of a friendlier nature at least in civil space programs.

In 1999, the United Nations declared the seven days beginning with October 4 as an annual World Space Week.   Events are being held around the world.   A list is available on the World Space Week website.

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