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Special Award: Web Only (2008)

Sputnik 1 and Explorer 1

In the mid 1950s, a period of remarkable scientific and technical cooperation occurred as an outgrowth of the International Geophysical Year (IGY). This period of international scientific cooperation led to new knowledge about the Arctic and Antarctic regions and new breakthroughs in all the geo sciences. It also inspired the start of the Space Age. Sputnik 1, launched on October 4, 1957 by the USSR (now Russia), demonstrated the feasibility of launching an artificial satellite by rocket into space. Russian scientist Sergei P. Korolev led a crash program to develop the spacecraft as part of the IGY. On January 31, 1958, the US, as its contribution to the IGY, successfully launched the first US satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit. This effort, led by William Pickering, James Van Allen and Wernher von Braun, led to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belts. These international achievements sparked a series of scientific, exploratory and then commercial satellites. By 1965, three operational communications satellite systems were deployed: the Intelsat global system, the Initial Defense Satellite Communication System of the US and Russia's Molniya domestic satellite system. Together, these two fierce Space Age competitors gave birth to today's vital space industry so critical to global news, entertainment, education, health care, economic development and international business.

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