While the U.S.’ space program is the subject of some debate currently, it’s facing nowhere near the level of doubt seen in its early days. Here’s the result of the U.S.’ first attempt to launch a satellite into orbit — it’s Vanguard TV-3 (test vehicle 3):
TV-3 was a tiny thing, 15.2 cm (6 inches) in diameter, weighing all of 1.36 kg (3 lb). But what doomed it was a (soon to become famous) launch vehicle failure (direct link) on December 6, 1957:
TV-3 was recovered from the site of the explosion, was restored, and is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington, D.C. It’s almost identical to the later Vanguard 1 satellite, which was launched successfully a few months later in 1958. Vanguard 1 holds the record for the oldest man-made satellite still in orbit, and while contact with it was lost in 1964, it’s coming up on the 53rd anniversary of its launch on March 17.