The ultimate goal of the Space Age was to see a man in a rocket, but a barrage of new technologies paved the way. Russia’s pioneering space sector, led by Chief Designer Sergei Korolev, followed the success of Sputnik 1 by sending new sophisticated spacecraft into orbit and beyond to other planets.
Korolev’s teams developed the technologies that could work many millions of miles from Earth, surviving both the violence of the rocket launch and the hostile environment of space. Animals were sent into orbit to test the systems needed to meet the ultimate challenge – manned space flight.
Luna 9 landing model – scale 1:10
Luna 9 performed the first ever soft landing on the Moon, in 1966. The lander was carefully designed to right itself upon landing, standing upright no matter what rocky surface it landed on. Four protective ‘leaves’ then unfolded, exposing the lander’s panoramic camera and instruments.
This is a ground testing set for the very first Soviet solar cells flown in space. They generated electricity from sunlight to power one of Sputnik 3’s scientific instruments and the radio transmitter.
Sputnik 3 was launched by Soviet Russian in 1958. It was a sophisticated space lab carrying an array of instruments for cosmic research. It was originally designed to fly first but held back to allowing Russia to accelerate its first launch by preparing a smaller and simpler Sputnik. This third satellite served as a refined tool for astronomy, biology and physics.
The image above shows an engineering model c. 1958. It is an almost identical twin to the actual satellite and would have been used for ground tests before and during the mission.
The likeness to Dr Who’s most famous foe has not gone unnoticed!
Sputnik 1 passed over all the inhabited areas of Earth during its 22 days in orbit. Its famous beep… beep… beep radio signal relayed the change in temperature and pressure inside the satellite as it cirlcled the globe. This gave important indications to the possibility of sustaining life in space. It was also picked up by radio listeners all around the world. Sputnik’s success was a historical event where the world was awakened to the possibilities of space flight.