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Sputnik Invades Smithsonian

The Russians are here, the Russians are here.

Sputnik, the little craft whose 1957 launching by the Soviet Union led to the space race, has been given the prominent position at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum once owned by the Wright Flyer, the world's first plane and an American wonder.

Museum officials swear that the Wright Brothers' 1903 spruce and ash aircraft wasn't bumped for the "Red Moon" to celebrate Sputnik's 50th.

In fact, the plane was moved four years ago to another spot in the museum chain's most popular building. Smithsonian officials haven't given over the prominent entrance ceiling space in full to the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth.

Right beside the beach-ball-size globe at the entrance of the museum is Explorer One, the rocket-shaped American answer to Sputnik launched three months later in January 1958.

Of course, both are replicas because the originals burned up in re-entry.

By Paul Bedard