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> My recollection is that the English translation of Sputnik is "fellow
> traveler" - it had nothing to do with "satellites", natural or
> artificial. ;-)

While this word can refer to someone who travels with you, it also
more generally means something that goes together with something else
and it has been a standard term for satellite in astronomy at least as
far back as 1860s. (The Moon is described as a "sputnik" in the 1866
Dal dictionary.) This word was also used for artificial satellites
before 1957, at the time when they were just a theoretical
possibility. Though, it seems that it was mostly used in an
abbreviation: "ISZ" for "iskustvennyi sputnik Zemli" ("artificial
Earth satellite") at the time. This was used for all future satellites
- Soviet, American, whatever. When Korolev's team finally got around
to building one, they called it "Prosteishii sputnik 1" - "Basic
satellite 1". I don't think there was any creativity or poetry in this
name. It's really just about the least creative thing they could have
called it. Perhaps they were too busy building the thing to spend time
to think of "cool" names. Or perhaps they thought that whatever they
call it is going to sound cool once the thing actually flies.

  - yuri