Sputnik and the Space Race

A New York Times Article about the recent Soviet Satellite called Sputnik being launched

On Octorber 4, 1957 the first successful space launch occurred and the world looked on in awe as infinite new possibilities were born.  The Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik 1 from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan into a low orbit around the earth.  This accomplishment was astounding for the entire scientific community of the world.  The Soviet Union took great pride in their leap ahead of the rest of the world.  Sputnik could be seen passing overhead every day, and this caused great pride for the Soviets and great fear for the Americans who looked up and saw it.

sputnik matchbook

First Sputnik Matchbook (195Smilie: 8) Tallinn match factory, 1957. Dedicated to the launch of the first sputnik.

The implications of this launch were earth shattering.  The Soviet Union gained a capability which no other nation possessed.  The rocket which carried Sputnik, designed by Kurchatov, was a four chamber cluster of rockets.  It became a major military concern that this method which could launch satellites into space could be used to launch nuclear missiles at United States targets.  The US Congress reacted by passing the National Defense Education Act in 1958 which spent five billion on higher education in the sciences and foreign languages.  The Pentagon also forced massive spending increases in rocket development.


Sputnik 1

This launch kicked into effect the space race which has been the source of innumerable technological advancements in the world.  The United States and The Soviet Union became entwined in a fierce competition of technological advancement striving to meet such goals as having a person orbit the earth and putting a man on the moon.  These goals were met in an incredibly short time because of the intensity with which the Us and USSR pursued these goals.



Seventeen Moments in Soviet History:




Freeze, Gregory L. Russia A History. Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 2009.

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