October 4 - 1957 - The Launch of Sputnik 1
In the mid-1950s, both the Soviet Union and the United States were planning to send a satellite into space and orbit around the Earth. Yet when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, it was astonishing to most of the world. Part of why it was astonishing was that the United States was nowhere near launching a satellite. The fact it could go into space was due to the fact that Sputnik was remarkably similar. The small metal sphere with antennae jutting out was not the initial plan for a Soviet satellite, but instead became the project after a more complicated satellite full of instruments was pushed back. Sputnik was simply attached to a rocket, slipped out into orbit, and sent radio signals at a low level back to Earth. Yet Sputnik's very existence and orbit created widespread panic among Americans. Everyday Americans were worried a Soviet satellite was a precursor to much more sinister objects. This was quickly proven untrue as it just sent a "beep-beep-beep" radio signal, but even that was enough to send the American government into a flurry of activity, granting more funds for scientific research and creating the National Aeronautic and Space Administration.