An illustration of the Vanguard 1 satellite, launched in 1958, by turkeychik.
The image was used in Alice Gorman’s article in The Conversation, Saving space junk, our cultural heritage in orbit:
One of the most significant pieces of “space junk” is the US satellite Vanguard 1. Launched in 1958, this satellite is now the oldest human-made object in space.
Historians argue that the infrastructure set up for Vanguard 1 – including tracking stations in Australia – shaped all subsequent US space programs. That’s a lot of cultural significance packed into an aluminium sphere the size of a grapefruit (as USSR leader Nikita Khrushchev disparagingly called it).