I am wondering if there is any visual documentation of the Sputnik launcher and/or launch, either video or photographs.
1$\begingroup$ I would love to see that! :) But I imagine I would be spoiled, since modern cameras, and tracking systems are so good, you can literally see it go all the way to orbit if the clouds are in your favour. $\endgroup$– geoffcFeb 7, 2014 at 16:18
$\begingroup$ Some footage was included in the BBC Documentary "Cosmonauts: How Russia Won the Space Race" (first broadcast October 2014). $\endgroup$– David RicherbyDec 21, 2014 at 11:23
I found a photos, after searching around a bit. I haven't found any video yet. See Space.com for more.
1$\begingroup$ That launch pad seems to be far above the 'surface level', is it (on a) a ship? $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2014 at 4:20
10$\begingroup$ @AndrewThompson Launch pads at the Baikonur Cosmodrome are built on sides of quarries (well, they might not be quarries per se, but an excavated part of the land that resembles them) over which the launcher is grappled, so the majority of the exhaust plume is deflected away from it. There's no larger bodies of water anywhere close to it, the closest would be the Syr Darya river about 20 miles from it. That in the background is just steppe flatlands. Here are some nice photos of how it looks like. ;) $\endgroup$ Feb 8, 2014 at 18:04
Yes, there are videos of the launch of Sputnik 1, there was no way that the Soviet propaganda machinery of those times would have missed the opportunity, and I've seen at least two separate sources, one filmed on a color camera, and another black & white from a slightly different angle.
From what's available online, sadly none are of quality we've become accustomed to, but they should do:
Color version from what seems to be a Russian featurette (alternative source via YouTube):
Black & White clips featured in Sputnik Mania film by David Hoffman (can be also seen in this video):
These footages appear to be legit copies of the launch of Sputnik 1 in 4 October 1957 from Site №1, a pad that is now part of the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch complex in Kazakhstan.
Another interesting thing about Sputnik 1 is how the news was reported in the western media, as seen for example in video of CBS special report. :/