Sputnik Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

The launch of the Sputnik satellites in Russia changed the world. In this lesson, learn about how these satellites were created in Russia, and discover how their creation inspired the space program of the United States.

Inventions in Russia

Would you believe that something about the size and shape of a beach ball would change the world? That's exactly what happened in 1957. For many years, people gazed into the sky and wondered what could be found beyond our planet. In the country of Russia, scientists dreamed of sending an object in space that could help humans learn more about space. They created several satellites called Sputnik.

Satellites are objects that orbit or circle planets, and they can be natural bodies or made by humans. The Sputnik satellites were man-made objects sent into space to circle the moon or Earth and collect information. Let's find out more about these satellites and their impact on the world.

A Man Named Mikhail

The idea of a satellite had been around for hundreds of years, but in the 1930s a Russian man named Mikhail Tikhonravov was doing a lot of research on rockets and space exploration. He became the leader of a team of scientists who worked hard to get a satellite into space. By using multiple rockets, they gathered enough power to send the first Sputnik satellite into orbit around the Earth. It was launched on October 4, 1957, and orbited the Earth in less than 100 minutes.

Mikhail Tikhonarovov, Russian space scientist
Russian scientist

Satellite Characteristics

When you think of spaceships and rockets, you probably think of impressive, large objects. The first version was Sputnik I, and it was actually pretty small! It was round and weighed slightly less than 200 pounds. It was made of something called an aluminum alloy. This is a combination of different metals like copper and zinc, but most of the alloy is made of aluminum.

Sputnik I was a small satellite made of aluminum alloy.

Inside the satellite, there were gauges to help monitor the temperature and make sure it would not get too hot. Space launches and orbits get pretty hot! Most importantly, Sputnik had a radio transmitter which would send signals back to Earth and help scientists learn more about what the satellite could see while orbiting the planet.

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