Sputnik 1 was an artificial satellite presently orbiting the Earth during the time of The Iron Giant. It is featured at the beginning of the film passing over Maine, before the giant’s arrival from deeper space.
The Sputnik's first and only physical appearance in the The Iron Gaint was at the start of the film, where it is seen orbiting above the Earth's atmosphere, releasing transmission signals while it travels. The year is 1957 (the same year it was launched) and as the satallite continuous its path across Earth, it passes over an area of the globe which is currently experiencing a large hurricane, which turns about to be in the northeastern United States off the coast of Hogarth's hometown, Rockwell, Maine. After swiftly disappearing beyond the Earth's horizon, the Iron Giant rockets by into the eye of the storm below.
The Sputnik is later mentioned by Earl Stutz, the first man to see the Iron Giant after his crash landing to Earth. Earl speculates, to a disblieving group of men at the Chat n' Chew Diner, that he might have seen the Sputnik or perhaps an invader from Mars. Dean McCoppin (who is present at the diner as well) also has paper at his table reporting sightings of the Sputnik in the night sky.
The Sputnik is briefly mention again during Hogarth's confrontation with Mr. Mansley at Eddie’s Rexall. With the high tensions created as a result of the Sputnik, Mansley explains the worries of the US government over the Sputnik being a foreign satellite and the possibility of other nations being ahead of the United States technologically. Mansley therefore asserts the Iron Giant must be destroyed on the account that it was not constructed by the US military and the possibility of it being another country's or another planet's weapon.
Sputnik 1 was the first recorded artificial Satellite launched in to orbit around the Earth. Launched during the Cold War by the Soviet Union, on October 4, 1957, the Sputnik caught the world’s attention and took the American public off-guard. With the end of World War II, Americans were under the notion that the United States had technological superiority over the USSR, however the flight of Sputnik demonstrated that Soviet Union was capable of modern feats.
With the surprise success, the launch effectively fueled a period of public fear and speculation in the west. The United States had been expected to accomplish the feat first and worry formed that the Soviet Union had surpassed United States Military in developing new technologies. This belief was only amplified when the U.S. Government suffered a severe setback in December of 1957 when its first artificial satellite, named Vanguard, exploded on the launch pad in full view of the press, embarrassing the nation. Not only was the Vanguard's launch a failure, but the Sputnik's size was more impressive than Vanguard's intended 3.5-pound payload. In addition, the public feared that the Soviets' ability to launch satellites also translated into the capability to launch ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear weapons from Europe to the U.S. This period of fear among the American populace came to be known as the American Sputnik crisis and its effect greatlty influenced the development of the Cold War Space Race and Arms Race.
Sputnik in the distance.
Sputnik passing the Earth.
Sputnick's back and side.
The real-life Sputnik was a polished metal sphere that was reflective like a mirror. It was not dark at the back like in the movie nor did it have a hammer and sickle on it.