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History Around the Russian Launch of Sputnik

History Around the Russian Launch of Sputnik

The launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik on October 4th, 1957 had a profound influence on both American and Russian culture, ranging from the inception of the space race to the mass hysteria the ensued in America afterwards. Sputnik was the product of massive amounts of money and research poured into a missile and satellite program by both the American and Soviet governments. Even though The soviet union might have been the first country to put a satellite into space, this does not necessarily mean that they were ahead in the overall space race, despite this, Sputnik was seen to Americans as an almost cretin symbol of doom and Soviet supremacy.

To the American people science and technology has always been a symbol of democratic stability and military strength. Knowledge is power. The forefathers of our country were almost entirely philosophers or scientists. Characters come to mind like John Quincy Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who where philosophers, and one of our strongest national figures, Benjamin Franklin, was an avid inventor. From the Inception of some of the first national universities to the launch of the Louis and Clark expedition, scientific progress is value imbedded in the national conciseness. (Killian, 1977,p.45)

Science has always been important to that American people, but it was the onset of both of the world wars that made it so ultimately important. In 1941 President Roosevelt approved the establishment of the National Defense Research Committee, and one year later he created the Office oh Scientific Research and development. He was prompted to do this by the war looming in the nations future and the need to be prepared if the US would have to fight. (Killian, 1977,p.47)

In the spring of 1950, a group of American scientists led by James van Allen met in Silver Springs, Maryland to discuss the possibility of an international scientific program to study the upper atmosphere and outer space via sounding rockets, balloons, and ground observations. Strong support from Western European scientists allowed the idea to expand into a worldwide program timed to coincide with a period of intense solar activity, 1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958. The participants named this period the International Geophysical Year (IGY) and created the Comité speciale de l'année géophysique internationale (the 'Special Committee for the International Geophysical...

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