With the successful launch of the Sputnik satellite, the Soviets gained a foothold in their ongoing Space Race with the United States. As they did not have the capability to create a single rocket to launch the satellite into space, the Soviet scientist in charge of the project designed a cluster of rockets which, when clustered with other clusters, would have the launching force necessary to complete the mission. What that meant however, was that the Soviets had the ability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, as that was where the satellite rocket technology had come from, and the United States did not.
The Soviet government was incredibly proud of its achievement, calling it a “victory for socialism,” and soon afterwards sent up a dog named Laika, who unfortunately died within hours of takeoff. Actually, when they sent her up, they had no way to safely guide the ship through reentry, so she never had a chance of survival. Nevertheless, the whole event was very good for Soviet morale. They achieved several major milestones in space exploration, and the launch had the added benefit of sending the United States into a tailspin because there were Soviet nuclear missiles with the capacity to hit the continental US. Neil Armstrong may have been the first man on the moon, but Laika was the first living thing to orbit Earth, even though she suffered terribly for it.
“Great Victory of Soviet Science.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 1 Sept. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/launch-of-sputnik/launch-of-sputnik-texts/great-victory-of-soviet-science/.
Laika, Russian Cosmonaut Dog, in 1957. Heritage Images / Getty Images, time.com/3546215/laika-1957/.
“Launch of Sputnik.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 21 May 2017, soviethistory.msu.edu/1956-2/launch-of-sputnik/.
Latson, Jennifer. “Laika the Cosmonaut Dog: USSR Sends First Living Creature into Orbit.” Time, Time, 3 Nov. 2014, time.com/3546215/laika-1957/.