The Space Race

When the USSR launched the 184-pound satellite Sputnik into space, they made the statement that they were leagues ahead of the West when it came to certain technologies. And just one month later, the Soviet Union propelled another satellite into space that contained a dog named Laika. This would have far reaching consequences, other than providing for the Soviet Union a rallying cry for its people after such a technological feat.

The space race was much more than just who could get a satellite or spaceship above the stars first. It held great cultural and social importance for the people of both the East and the West, as everyone wanted to be first to prove to themselves that they were superior to the other. When the Soviets initially won the race to put a manmade object into space, it was a great source of pride for the communists, and they bragged about the triumph of their scientists. In a reception held at the Kremlin on February 8 1958, the USSR praised the ‘Intelligentsia’ for their successes in bringing communist society to a new peak. There was much talk about how they brought ‘triumph and glory to the Fatherland’.

Not only a serious victory for its people, putting Sputnik into space meant that the Soviets were miles ahead of the West in terms of ICBM technology. With missiles capable of putting satellites in space, this meant that the USSR was leaps and bounds ahead of the US in creating missiles that could carry nuclear payloads and deliver them in new and terrifying ways to our shores. This would change the Cold War (and warfare in general for that matter) dramatically, and the beginnings of large scale nuclear proliferation would start with Sputnik. Even though most intelligence sources in the West stated that the Soviets were not putting a large amount of effort in developing such technology and that they were more focused on space, the Pentagon used Sputnik as a tool to further their own development of ICBM tech, which would perhaps lead to the US eventually taking the lead in the nuclear arms race.

I imagine that hearing about the successful launch of Sputnik is fondly remembered by many in the Soviet Union, and perhaps even across the globe. Indeed, the Soviet scientists responsible for the ‘immortal scientific feat’ will live in eternal glory and have the ultimate bragging rights. However, their claim to fame could be disputed by Neil Armstrong and NASA, but still the USSR did accomplish something quite memorable, and to this day remains a great source of pride for Russia.

Laika the fearless space dog. Just look at that determined face.
Laika the fearless space dog. Just look at that determined face.

Sources:

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1956sputnik&Year=1956&navi=byYear

http://dlib.eastview.com/browse/doc/13822328

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c9/Laika.jpg