“The new Sputnik Crisis”

 44181954 Diy Sputnik 416
Good article from 10/07 – “The new Sputnik Crisis”

Fifty years ago today, the first satellite launched into space set the nation on a course that ultimately made the United States the technological envy of the world. It also changed my life in ways that I never could have imagined at the time.

I was 7, living in St. Louis, when our family first saw Sputnik-1 orbiting the Earth on Oct. 4, 1957. It was an awe-inspiring and frightening experience. Awe-inspiring, because the United States was then assumed to be the leader in missile technology and sending a satellite into orbit was clearly an amazing technological feat by another country. And frightening, because Sputnik was a visible reminder in the sky for all of us during the Cold War that the Soviet Union had now pulled ahead in the nuclear arms race. If the Soviets had the technological know-how to build missiles capable of putting a 184-pound, basketball-sized satellite in orbit, it was only a matter of time before they could launch nuclear weapons in our direction.

The Sputnik Crisis, as it became known, prompted our nation to invest heavily in scientific research and in the education of scientists and engineers. In 1958, President Eisenhower created NASA, starting the space race that eventually put the first astronauts on the moon. In 1959, Congress appropriated $134 million for the National Science Foundation, a huge amount at the time, considering that it was nearly $100 million more than the entire agency’s budget the previous year.

Pictured above… HOW TO – Build your own Sputnik.

…and new president promises new era of scientific innovation.

2 thoughts on ““The new Sputnik Crisis”

  1. rbean says:

    The article notes that the reason students don’t want to become scientists is that they know there aren’t enough jobs for them. Most scientists live on grant money, and there’s less of that than there used to be. There’s no point in encouraging people to get trained in a field where they can’t make a living.

    I suspect the same is true for engineers– where manufacturing goes, engineering tends to follow (ie, overseas).

    If you want more scientists and engineers, you need to create more jobs for them. Otherwise, people like us will just tinker around with stuff and post it here, and try to make a living some other way.

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