On this day in 1958, the United States launched its first satellite -- Explorer 1 -- into orbit. During the preceding year, the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik 1 and 2, and the Space Race had begun. Explorer 1 launched at 10:48 EST. In the above photograph, in the very early hours of February 1 on the eastern coast of the United States, William Pickering (left), the director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, James Van Allen (center) and Werner von Braun (right), hoist a model of the satellite above their heads in celebration of the successful launch at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC.

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Image: NASA.