The Space Age is a time period encompassing the activities related to the Space Race, space exploration, space technology, and the cultural developments influenced by these events. The Space Age is generally considered to have begun with Sputnik (1957). Furthermore it is argued that this age brought a new dimension to the Cold War.
The Space Age began with the development of several technologies that culminated on October 4, 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union. This was the world's first artificial satellite, orbiting the Earth in 98.1 minutes and weighing in at 83 kg. The launch of Sputnik 1 ushered a new era of political, scientific and technological achievements that became known as the Space Age.
The Space Age was characterized by rapid development of new technology in a close race mostly between the US and the Soviet Union. Rapid advances were made in rocketry, materials science, computers and other areas. Much of the technology originally developed for space applications has been spun off and found other uses.
The Space Age reached its peak with the Apollo program, that captured the imagination of much of the world's population. The landing of Apollo 11 was watched by over 500 million people around the world and is widely recognized as one of the defining moments of the 20th century. Since then, public attention has largely moved to other areas. Public perception of the dangers and cost of space exploration in the US was greatly affected by the Challenger disaster in 1986. Public interest in space exploration further faded when the space race came to an end due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
During the 1990s funding for space related programs fell sharply as the remaining structures of the Soviet Union disintegrated and NASA no longer had any direct competition.
Since then participation in space launches has increasingly widened to more governments and commercial interests. Since the 1990s, the current period has more often been referred to as the Information Age rather than the Space Age, since space exploration and space-related technologies gained a perception by many people of being commonplace.