|THE DAWN OF THE SPACE AGE|
October 13, 1997
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Questions answered in this forum:
What technological advances were achieved by the Russians when they launched Sputnik? Why did the Russians bet America into space? Did Sputnik undermine America's trust in its government? What were servicemen told when Sputnik was launched? Where will the next Sputnik come from? Was Sputnik's real legacy economic? Can anything replace the Cold War as a motivation for space exploration?
John Monthy of Tacoma, WA, asks:
It is often stated that Sputnik was simply an aluminum sphere weighing 184 pounds. 184 pounds seems considerable to me. What did it contain? Must have been more than a simple transmitter giving off its intermittent beeps. Was there no real technological surprises inside or was the real leap the rocket engines, etc. the Russians had developed?
Dr. Keith Benson of the History of Science Society responds:
Although my reply should not be considered completely authoritative, the real leap considered as such by the Americans was the size of the rocket engines. In retrospect, the Russians were probably aiming toward a capsule that would be large enough to contain an animal, with hopes to send even larger spheres to contain a human. They achieved both before the Americans did--in large measure because of their superior rocketry.
Next: Why did the Russians beat America into space?