50th Anniversary of America Entering the Space Race

At the time, we didn’t know a great deal, but we felt comfortable that we could put something up. And we liked the difference between our satellite and Sputnik. Ours flew science, the Van Allen experiment.
– Carl Raggio, a mechanical engineer on the Explorer team

Explorer I

Explorer I
Image by NASA

50 years ago, at this minute January 31, 1958 at 10:48 PM, the launch of Explorer I became America’s official entry into the Space Race.

Although Sputnik I and II were first into space, American’s deserve to have pride in Explorer I for going one step beyond just reaching space by performing some science while it was up there.

A Geiger counter installed on Explorer I discovered the Van Allen radiation belt, and it didn’t have to kill a dog to do so.