1950’s Research: NASA and Sputnik

1950’s research (primarily on NASA and space travel, late 1950’s).


   ”Listen now,” said the NBC radio network announcer on the night of October 4, 1957, “for the sound that forever separates the old from the new” (Dickson 1). Communist space probe, Sputnik, was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. This instigated a scare among the American people. However, it began a new era, the era of space exploration. During 1957 and 1958 life for the average American was hesitant yet revolutionary because the actual ability of taking part in space exploration was becoming a reality.

            The vast majority of people living today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, were born after Sputnik was launched and may be unaware of the degree to which it helped shape life as we know it (Dickson 1). However, to fully grip the concept of the effect that the deployment of Sputnik caused, Simon Ra-mo, space pioneer, said “the American response to the accomplishment of the Soviet Union was comparable to the reaction I could remember to Lindberghs landing in France, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and Franklin D. Roosevelts expiration.”The reactions of the general American public were those of uncertainty and hesitance. Therefore, fear was a predominant emotion that the American public felt. Nevertheless, Sputnik wasn’t launched as an attack of any sort. Sputnik was designed to take part in space travel, an unthinkable and beyond-belief idea of the 1950s, and any other preceding time. Sergei P. Karole was the “discoverer” of Sputnik. He proposed launching and creating the space satellite to further pursue studies for space travel. The launch of Sputnik initiated the “Space Race”, a race between the two sides for domination of space.

            Conversely, the Sputnik launch led directly to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (commonly called the “Space Act”), which created NASA as of October 1, 1958 (Sputnik). The world was changing. America was changing. Cold War anxiety was rising (Lev 173). America was behind the Soviet Union in space exploration. This furthermore upheld the anxiety for the race of technology. However, instead of panicking, NASA retaliated with the launch of Explorer 1, in January 1958. Explorer 1 was the first successful U.S. satellite (Bradley). Explorer 1 revolved around Earth in a looping orbit that took it as close as 354 kilometers (220 miles) to Earth and as far as 2,515 kilometers (1,563 miles) (Conway). It made one orbit every 114.8 minutes, a total of 12.54 orbits per day. The U.S. proved to be a formidable opponent for the Soviet Union. The Space Race was only starting.

            An undeniable effect of the initiation of the Space Race was that it revolutionized America’s ordinary, daily life. The long term effects of the space race on Nebraska and other regions of the country came in the way the space race changed the educational system and the imaginations of our people (Space). A greater emphasis was put on science and arithmatic in U.S. educational systems. Funds were put into more science and arithmatic courses for students in the educational system. The launch of the Space Race was simply ground-breaking. It affected the United States, rather the world, as a whole. It impacted various aspects of everyday life; it wasn’t just limited to the science/space department. It was truly revolutionary.

            Altogether, the launch of Sputnik forever revolutionized not just America, but the whole world. Space exploration, being a science-fiction, was transformed into a science, an actuality. Explorer 1 was just the beginning. The American public knew technological advances were upon them. They were, however, hesitant of such phenomena, such as space travel, but experiencing the launch of Sputnik in 1957 forever changed a person’s outlook on the world; nothing was impossible. The everlasting effects of the launch of the Space Age and creation of NASA are distinguished throughout the veins of American culture today.

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