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Declassified CIA Papers Show U.S. Aware In Advance Of Sputnik Possibilities

The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, was launched by the Soviet Union from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 4, 1957. (file photo)

The CIA has released newly declassified documents showing that U.S. intelligence agencies were aware of Russia's impending launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite -- an event that shocked the American public when the news broke exactly 60 years ago.

The documents released on October 4 show that President Dwight D. Eisenhower had advance knowledge of the Soviets' work on Sputnik, which was launched on October 4, 1957.

The documents indicate that Eisenhower’s administration and U.S. intelligence and military officials not only knew that the Soviet Union was planning to launch Sputnik, but that it could be put into orbit by the end of 1957.

Sputnik measured 58 centimeters (22 inches) in diameter and weighed 83.6 kilograms (184.3 pounds).

The launch, considered a major victory for the Kremlin, shocked the American public, many of whom had believed the United States was far ahead of the Soviets militarily and scientifically.

The event also launched the space race between the two countries, leading to the eventual landing of the first man on the moon by the United States in 1969.

"History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I," NASA said in a statement marking the anniversary.

"That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the Space Age and the U.S.-U.S.S.R space race."

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and TASS