PS-1, Prosteishii Sputnik, a very simple satellite, was launched at night, on October 4, 1957 at 19:28:34 GMT. It fell to Earth on January 4, 1958, after completing 1400 orbits. It immediately created a wave of anxiety across the Western World, as it was seen as a sign of Russian Communist technological superiority. It also created (what is informally referred to by psychiatrists as) the Sputnik Effect.
Within days of the launch, patients were presenting at Psychiatric casualty units with delusions of being tracked and receiving messages from Sputnik PS-1. This effect was re-enforced by the paranoia of the popular media presentations of the threat of Sputnik, and also the media celebration of the ability of amateur ‘Radio Hams’ to record signals from Sputnik as it orbited overhead.
It is a moment marked by psychiatric commentators as the ‘death of God’ as the all-seeing persecutor in psychotic delusions, and the definitive ascendancy of technologies of control and surveillance as the key agents of persecution in the cosmic constructions of psychotic patients.