A Piece of Sputnik in Manitowoc, Wisconsin

In the early 1960s, the Soviet Union began its Vostok program with a series of unmanned test flights to investigate the possibilities and means for a crewed mission, before sending Yuri Gagarin into space. Korabl-Sputnik 1, known as "Sputnik 4" in the West, was the first test flight of the Vostok program. The 4.5-ton spacecraft carried a variety of scientific instruments, including a television camera and a self-contained biological cabin with a dummy astronaut. The purpose of the mission was to study the operation of life support systems and the stresses of flight.

Korabl-Sputnik 1 was launched to much fanfare from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on May 15, 1960. After four days of flight, the reentry cabin was separated from its service module and retrorockets were fired, but due to incorrect attitude control the spacecraft could not re-enter the atmosphere as planned. Instead, it went into space where it remained until September 5, 1960, when it returned to Earth's atmosphere. As it passed through the thin air of the upper atmosphere, the spacecraft burned up almost completely, except for a 20-pound piece of metal, which landed right in the middle of a street outside Manitowoc, Wisconsin, in the northern United States. Rahr-West Art Museum. 

The Sputnik fragment was first discovered by two policemen, Marvin Bauch and Ronald Rusbold, who initially mistook it for a piece of cardboard. However, upon approaching it, they felt that the object was too hot to touch. Believing it to be a piece of slag from a local foundry that had fallen from a truck, they casually tossed it aside.

It wasn't until Bauch and Rusboldt saw news reports of Sputnik's disintegration that they connected the piece of metal to the 8th Street incident. When they returned more than seven hours after its fall, they found it still lying in the drain. Using a Geiger counter borrowed from the fire department and confirming the absence of radioactivity, he sent the object to the Smithsonian.

Nine days after the accident, the Americans presented the spacecraft fragment to the Soviets, but not before NASA had built two replicas. One was given to Wisconsin's Democratic senator, the other to Wisconsin's Republican representatives, on the one-year anniversary of the crash. However, both rejected the replicas, resulting in both returning to Manitowoc. These replicas are now in the Rahr-West Art Museum and the Security Building at Manitowoc.

On November 15, 1963, the International Association of Machinists placed a brass ring on 8th Street to mark the exact spot where Sputnik fell. Additionally, a small pink granite slab was installed on the sidewalk, providing details of the accident.

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