MARKING THE FIRST DAY OF THE SPACE RACE.
242 x 35 x 15 mm aluminum alloy fragment, October 4, 1957, being a piece of Sputnik-PS, the R7 rocket that launched the Sputnik-1, holes drilled 52 mm apart around the arc.
With: Autograph Letter Signed from Georgy M. Grechko, dated October 4, 1994, in Russian *with silver gelatin print portrait of Grechko, 4 3/4 x 3 1/2 inches.
Provenance: From the collection of Georgy M. Grechko (1931-2017) sold Sotheby's Russian Space History March 16, 1996, lot 13.
SPUTNIK-1 RELIC FROM THE FIRST DAY OF THE SPACE-AGE; THE ONLY KNOWN PIECE IN PRIVATE HANDS.
Soviet cosmonaut Georgy Grechko states in the accompanying letter of provenance that he was a young engineer when he participated in the Sputnik-1 launch on October 4, 1957. The first stage of the R-7 launch vehicle fell back to Earth and Grechko was able to obtain this piece from the flange of the oxygen tank. A translation of the letter, in full: "When I was a young engineer, I participated in the launch of the world's first Earth satellite on October 4,1957. The first stage of the launch vehicle naturally fell back to Earth. I kept a fragment of this step as a souvenir. The debris is a piece of a flange - a hole in the first stage oxygen tank. The hole opens at the moment of separation of the stages in order to divert the falling of the first stage from the second stage without impact, which continues its flight into space along with the satellite. / Only a year later, I realized that I was participating not just in the launch of a satellite, but in a historical event - the start of the Space Age of Mankind. / Then at the Cosmodrome I put on my test-engineer clothes, took a photo and presented this photo to my parents / G. Grechko / Oct.4/94
Grechko, who had received a doctorate in mathematics from Leningrad Institute of Mechanics, understates his involvement in the Sputnik-1 project as he was responsible for important task of calculating the satellite's trajectory. He was part of OKB-1, the Soviet space bureau who were responsible, under the direction of Sergei Korolev, for designing the R7 rocket and the Sputnik-1 satellite, and it was in this capacity that he was able to witness the historic event.
The successful launch of Sputnik-1 sent the United States population into a panic. In the midst of a cold war, the Soviets demonstrated that they had a rocket powerful enough to send a satellite into orbit. "There was a sudden crisis of confidence in American technology, values, politics, and the military. Science, technology, and engineering were totally reworked and massively funded in the shadow of Sputnik. The Russian satellite essentially forced the United States to place a new national priority on research science, which led to the development of microelectronics. Many essential technologies of modern life, including the Internet, owe their early development to the accelerated pace of applied research triggered by Sputnik" (Dickson. Sputnik: The Shock of the Century. New York: Walker, , p 4.)
"To me, it was as if Sputnik was the starter's pistol in an exciting new race. I was electrified, delirious, as I witnessed the beginning of the Space Age" (Dickson pp 2-3).