Anonymous yet personal, this Blog chronicles
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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sputnik



I'm a space-age baby.

I remember when my older brother Larry (a naturally born "mad" scientist) dragged me out of the house one evening to look up at the dark sky. He pointed up at a little white dot moving quickly across the blackness of space. "That's Sputnik" he said. I was about 3 and 1/2 years old, but I vividly remember this strange and somewhat confusing experience.

For weeks to follow the news of the Soviet-launched celestial object utterly captivated Americans. Practically the next day Larry was sent home from school with armloads of math and science books. The space race was underway. It was as if our survival depended on it.

In retrospect, this initial contact with outer space was a good thing. Satellite communications, GPS, and space-based imagery such as Google Earth are now an ingrained part of our modern lifestyle. The world has become not only smaller, but possibly a safer place. The superpowers have long been able to look into each other's back yards, and see what is being served for lunch at the cookout.

But at the time - as you may remember - Sputnik created intense anxiety and fear. The 1950's were rife with nightmares of imminent nuclear destruction.

It's odd that the Russians were the one's to launch the first satellite. After WW II the Americans had "acquired" all of the German missile gurus (many of which had a shady Nazi past). America had the brains and the initial lead, and the Russians only had a set of old German missile plans to work with. And while the Soviet space project had just successfully launched their R2 inter-ballistic missile (which was designed to reach the continental US), it some how went unnoticed by the general public - at least until 10/4/1957.

And, people are still talking about that important event that occurred over 50 years ago.

Boy, am I getting old!

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