Did Sputnik Really Scare Americans That Much?

Dec 2013
267
Arkansas
#1
The conventional wisdom is that the launch of Sputnik I by the Soviets in 1957 scared the crap out of the American people and that we poured money into the school systems to get more kids into math and science.

Is this actually true?

From what I've read in magazines at that time the "panic" was largely confined to the national media and decision makers in Washington D.C.
 
Apr 2016
462
RU
#2
Steven King wrote that it was the most scary moment in his life. The man who scares the world was scared. Definatelly Hollywood must share its income with Communists 😃

Natus ut primus sim
 
Last edited:

Port

Ad Honorem
Feb 2013
2,080
portland maine
#3
Steven King wrote that it was the most scary moment in his life. The man who scares the world was scared. Definatelly Hollywood must share its income with Communists 😃

Natus ut primus sim
At the time people were worried about if sputnik might be a nuclear threat. There was confusion that the Russians were ahead of the US in space technology. People went outside to watch it. All you needed were binoculars.
 

royal744

Ad Honoris
Jul 2013
10,441
San Antonio, Tx
#5
Actually, it was a major shock. The speaker of the house made a speech about "losing the high ground". It resulted in a wrenching and immediate national inquiry about how to catch up to the Russians. At the same time, we were watching Vanguard rockets exploding one after the other on Cape Canaveral launch pads. Oh yes, "we" (the entire country) was were traumatized all right. Suddenly massive amounts of money were poured into the math and science departments all across the country. I don't think anyone worried about Spoutnik being "nuclear", but in the back of most everyone's mind was the possibility that rockets and satellites in space could be used for nefarious purposes.

Because of Sputnik the US entered the space race in a big way, finally challenging the Russians to a race to the moon, a race that the Russianbs decisively lost, but it took about ten years to make the point. Not that the US was that far behind, actually. The Army had the Redstone Rocket which was better and more reliable than Vanguard, and a host of other missiles that became Thor and Atlas and Atlas-Agena. About halfway to the moon missions, we were already well ahead of the Russians but by then they had won propaganda and technical victories in sending the first man into space, the first dog into space, the first space walk (almost ended in disaster). Still, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo slowly caught up and then surpassed the Russians. The US launched the Space Shuttle. The Russians tried to copy it but it never flew except once in a sub-orbital mission.

The space race was a fabulous opportunity for the US to demonstrate its technical ability to set an amazing goal and meet all of its requirements.
 
Feb 2016
5,049
Atlantic Ocean
#6
IIRC the Space race and the ICBM race used the same tech so they were intertwined, if one had a great space rocket they had a great missile platform
 
Apr 2016
462
RU
#7
The success in space affected badly soviet airforces. Khruschev decided that military aircrafts were not important anymore. He stopped many projects and dismissed a lot of specialists.

Natus ut primus sim
 
Apr 2016
134
Alabama
#8
At the time people were worried about if sputnik might be a nuclear threat. There was confusion that the Russians were ahead of the US in space technology. People went outside to watch it. All you needed were binoculars.
That is what a lot of people told me when they heard the Russians launched Sputnik. This was a time when Nuclear attacks was on everyone's mind. Those that were young at the time did not think much of it, but their parents and their parents friends were talking about it into the late nights. After Sputnik was launched, the United States put a lot more money into the education programs, notably into math and science courses. The United States did not start putting money in the other school courses, until after the scandal of a rigged game show where the answers were fed to the contestants before hand.
 

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