On This Day - 15th May 1960: Sputnik IV launched

On this day in 1960 one of the famous Sputniks was launched. This particular one, known as Korabl-Sputnik 1 in Russia and as Sputnik IV in the West, was part of the build up to Russia sending humans into space. This unmanned spacecraft was designed to test out the equipment needed to keep humans alive in orbit and whether the communications system worked effectively. A human shaped dummy was placed in a cabin and studies were carried out on the craft’s life support system and what happened to the dummy in flight. 

In this case it was extremely lucky that it was a dummy. Four days into the mission the craft was due to descend but the altitude was incorrect and Sputnik did not re-enter as planned. Over two years later part of the craft re-entered, a small piece of the craft was founded on a street in Manitowoc, Wisconsin which gives a clue about the level of disintegration the craft underwent.

800px-Spuntik IV impact marker Manitowoc 01

Spuknik IV segment impact point
By AltioraPeto (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 It took a further three years for the rest of the craft to re-enter the atmosphere. Very lucky indeed that it was only a dummy. 

Perhaps not as an exciting anniversary as man landing on the moon but a scary reminder of the dangers of the space race and how vulnerable humans are when they start exploring out of their own atmosphere. 

© Isla Robertson 2017