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Sputnik and the Space Race: 1957 and Beyond

The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, marking the start of the space race. This guide provides suggested research materials on this topic at the Library of Congress and online.


A close-up view of the full-scale mockup of the Sputnik 1 spacecraft on display at the Soviet Pavilion at the Paris Air Show, France. 1976. Image courtesy of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik-1, the world's first artificial satellite. Only about the size of a beach ball (22.8 inches or 58 cm. in diameter) and weighing 183.9 pounds (83.6 kg), it orbited the Earth in around 98 minutes.

The Sputnik launch marked the start of the space age and the US-USSR space race, and led to the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

This guide is intended to help direct the researcher to information on Sputnik and the space race as well as artificial satellites. in addition to suggested books on the topic, links to digitized primary resources and other online resources for information on the history of Sputnik are included.

This guide was originally compiled in 2007 on the anniversary of the Sputnik launch (1957), but has been updated with additional content.

About the Science Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Science Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of science, medicine and engineering. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of science and engineering  assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of science, medicine, and engineering materials.