Both the Soviet Union and the United States had embarked on the development of ballistic missiles for carrying nuclear warheads to great distances. They had also announced plans to launch artificial satellites in the International Geophysical Year, a cooperative month scientific undertaking to study Earth and its atmosphere, beginning in Khrushchev had reiterated Soviet intentions only two months before. But a shock it was, a wake-up call. One of the intriguing might-have-beens of history is: What if Americans had deployed the first satellite?
Alex Roland, a historian of technology at Duke University and a former NASA historian, said that a first launching by Americans would have merely confirmed their reputation for technological superiority. The costly rivalry for dominance in space, he said, would have probably been waged with much less driving urgency. John M.
- USSR Launches Sputnik | National Geographic Society.
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But after Sputnik, there was no stopping the momentum of the space race. Critics attacked the administration of President Dwight D. The perception of a threatening Soviet advantage in missiles persisted. Necessity had dictated the Russian concentration on missiles.
Not long after he took office, the Russians scored another stunning triumph. In April , Gagarin became the first human to fly in Earth orbit. How brief the space race was, the 12 years from the wake-up call to the first walk on the Moon, but thrilling, mind-boggling, even magnificent at times. View all New York Times newsletters. While the Russians forge ahead, Americans begin catching up with the Mercury and Gemini flights in orbit.
As the goal comes into sight, there are the countdowns of tingling anticipation. In the dark before dawn, we drive toward the shining light enveloping a spaceship that looks like an obelisk out of antiquity, waiting to be launched. The blast of the Saturn 5, just three miles of sand and scrub away, beats on your chest and shakes the ground you stand on. Once at full thrust, and unbound, the huge rocket at first appears to be losing its fight against gravity, then slowly rises to the occasion and is off over the ocean, fire and vapor trailing behind.
Spacefarers are on their way to the Moon. Three lunar voyages are most sharply etched in memory. The Apollo 8 astronauts, in December , are the first to reach the Moon, circling it 10 times.
The legacy of the V-2
Out their windows they see the achingly beautiful Earth, blue and green under swirls of white clouds. On Christmas Eve, the men take turns reading verses from Genesis. It is a gift from on high at a time of turmoil and despair in the year of assassinations, rioting cities and a divisive war. Then there is Apollo The warmth of shared experience was remarkable, given the origins of the space race in an atmosphere of fear and belligerence. Apollo 11 essentially ended the space race, and public interest in spaceflight was flagging by the time of Apollo 13, in April The residual self-assurance that committed the country to Apollo in had given way to self-doubt.
The war in Vietnam, another chapter in the cold war, shoved Apollo to the periphery of the national mind. Apollo 13 is the mission that failed, but a drama of epic dimensions worthy of Homer. Three astronauts go forth on a daring quest, meet with disaster, face death and barely limp back to the safety of home.
If anything, this brush with death put a more human face on spaceflight and made it seem more exciting, and dangerous. By the end of , the last of the 12 men to walk on the Moon packed up and returned home, and no one has been there since. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. At the close of the century, he had not changed his mind.
In succeeding years, the Russians and Americans continued spaceflights, at a reduced pace. Most American money went into the space shuttles, the reusable vehicles confined to orbit that never lived up to their promise to make human flight more routine. It was left to the relatively low-budget robotic spacecraft to sustain the impression of exploration and discovery on this new frontier.
In that respect, they alone exceeded early promises. Russian and American craft explored Venus. Two Voyager craft made a grand tour of the four giant outer planets and are now approaching the edge of the solar system. The Hubble Space Telescope still sends images from deep in cosmic time. Carl Sagan, the astronomer and author, often spoke of this as the golden age of planetary exploration.
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On Oct 4, , a tiny satellite stunned the world. A reflection on Sputnik's impact. One evening in , I drove across Baltimore on a sentimental journey. Every so often since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the last gasps coming out of the exhausted Soviet Union itself, I had allowed myself reflections on my two years as a soldier in an unconventional war and the nearly half-century of anxieties of living in a world primed to blow itself up.
I could hardly think of myself outside the context of the cold war.
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I would therefore not be in Baltimore again, this time with astronomers who were preparing to look into the heavens via a giant orbiting telescope. We used to tarry in the back room there, over pitchers of beer fueling arguments about politics and the American novel. I took a stool and told the bartender that it had been more than three decades since I last had a beer here, back in my Holabird sojourn.
So I had seen.
The Sad, Sad Story of Laika, the Space Dog, and Her One-Way Trip into Orbit
The fort was gone. In its place stretched one corporate complex after another, buildings of glass and steel and spreading car parks. The names I saw were as unfamiliar as their digitized new-technology goods and services. I imagined I was looking on a monument to the cold war, and how apt it seemed.
The conflict we had lived through did not lend itself to heroic and triumphal iconography, nothing like the Iwo Jima flag-raising statue, nothing to glorify war or proclaim victory. So these commercial enterprises rising from cold-war technology, supplanting an old fort, were working monuments to the end of the cold war, monuments that do not look back.
At least Travelers and I had made it through this passage in history. Over my shoulder, I saw families and couples dining, not a beer pitcher or soldier anywhere. I wondered what post-cold-war memories these diners would bring back there in coming years. I took my leave of Travelers and an era. I had to be fresh in the morning for another meeting with people at the Space Telescope Science Institute. I wanted to learn more of our — and my own — expanding universe.
Sputnik: How the Soviet Union spun the satellite launch - BBC News
Over a long dinner, after the cold war and almost 30 years since the first lunar landing, a former astronaut who walked on the Moon and one of the Apollo flight directors got to skylarking about the good old days, something people do when they think of their past receding and the world changing all around. They laughed almost to tears telling cherished stories, one trying to top the other. Then a cloud seemed to pass over their faces. Pete Conrad, the astronaut, who would soon die in a motorcycle accident, and Gerald D. Griffin, the flight director, wondered in perplexity what had happened to their good old days.
What of those grand prospects of a few decades ago?
Sputnik: How the Soviet Union spun the satellite launch
No humans have flown to Mars, as once predicted, or established a permanent base on the Moon. A long-sought orbiting space station was finally being assembled in orbit, but no one seemed sure what it was good for, except as a demonstration of cooperation by many nations, including Russia, in a major space endeavor. Four people aboard the plane and approximately more in the apartment building lost their lives in the disaster. An El-Al Boeing cargo jet was scheduled to bring Televangelist Jim Bakker is indicted on federal charges of mail and wire fraud and of conspiring to defraud the public.
The case against the founder of Praise the Lord PTL Ministries and three of his aides exploded in the press when it was revealed that Bakker had sex with President Abraham Lincoln observes a balloon demonstration near Washington, D. Both Confederate and Union armies experimented with using balloons to gather military intelligence in the early stages of the war, but the balloons proved to be dangerous and impractical for most Some 7, mourners attended her funeral.