The Sputnik programme was a Soviet Union spacecraft programme. Sputnik 1, the first satellite in the programme, was launched on October 4, 1957. This was the first man-made satellite ever to enter orbit.
The United States was very surprised when the Soviet Union sent Sputnik 1 into space. It did not want to fall behind. So, it began spending more money on science and education. This was when the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States began.
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Media related to Sputnik at Wikimedia Commons