The Rocket Age and the Space Age

V-2 and Sputnik

The V-2 rocket and a model of Sputnik 1.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first successful launch of Germany’s A-4 ballistic missile and the orbiting of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik-1, took place 15 years and one day apart. The two achievements are related in more ways than their proximity on the calendar.

On Oct. 3, 1942, an A-4 developed by Wernher von Braun and his German Army team reached an altitude of 85 to 90 km (52.8 to 55.9 miles) after launch from Peenemunde on the Baltic Coast.


NASA Celebrates 60th Birthday

President Dwight D. Eisenhower (center) with T. Keith Glennan (left) and Hugh Dryden (right).

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — Although NASA is best known for 60 years of engineering and scientific achievements, it originally came into being as a matter of national security. After the Soviets flew the first two Sputniks in 1957 and Sputnik 3 in 1958, the U.S. government saw space as important new political, if not military, battlefield and began to lay the course for a long-term space plan.

“It was almost as if a bomb had fallen” on Capitol Hill, Congressional staffer Eilene Galloway said in a 2000 oral history interview, “because we were so surprised that the Soviet Union was first. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had space projects in the International Geophysical Year, but our project was very small. It was a satellite that weighed a little more than three pounds, and the Soviet satellite [weighed 184 pounds and] really opened up outer space as the new environment, added to land, sea and air.”