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Sixty Years After Sputnik

I was less than one year old and the Space Race assumed ominous proportions with the launching of Sputnik on October 4, 1957 by the Soviet Union.  Its radio transmissions could be picked up easily by amateur radio enthusiasts and its orbit was low enough, the Soviets making sure its orbit was over the most densely populated portions of the planet, to be seen by the naked eye.  The propaganda victory for the Soviets was immense and the US saw its claim to be ahead in science seem to be hollow.   Politicians had a herd of collective cows and the Space Race was kicked into high gear.  The US satellite Explorer I was launched on January 31, 1958, the day following my future bride’s birth, after the Soviets had launched their second Sputnik in November of 1957.  Developing satellite technology in response to Sputnik and beating the Soviets to the moon  became  a key element in the Cold War.  Sputnik burned up on reentry on January 4, 1958, but its impact on history continues to reverberate to today.

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

2 Comments

  1. In high school at the time I painted Sputnik into my Halloween painting on the storefront window in a very nefarious picture of the whole world being encircled by evil and enjoyed every minute of it.
    Homer Hickam, Jr. now a NASA scientist too, was entranced by Sputnik and wrote a book about The Rocket Boys, made into the film October Sky about his call to be a rocket scientist, his encouragement from his teacher, how he taught himself about rocket propulsion and his struggle to exit Coaltown, a West Virginia coal mining town. An enjoyable film of a true story. The bonus features after the film are enjoyable. The music is memorable and you can laugh and you can cry.
    Satellites, internet weather, “clouds” It was time in God’s mind for The American Catholic.

  2. Don

    Mom and Dad found when Sputnik would be overhead and dark enough to see. We went out in the back yard and watched until we saw it. A star moving too fast in
    the wrong direction.

    And to my seven year old self I knew it was important. It was a school night and we actually got to stay
    up past bed time.

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