|THE DAWN OF THE SPACE AGE|
October 13, 1997
Return to this forum's introduction.
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?
Brian Quint of Litchfield, MA, asks:
What do you think will be the next "Sputnik"--the next truly ground-shattering scientific or cultural event--that will cause the American society and body politic to really, really question its place in the world?
Haynes Johnson, journalist and author, responds:
I wish I were smart enough to know what "the next truly ground shattering scientific or cultural event" will occur to shake America's confidence in itself and its future, but alas I plead ignorant on that front.
My own belief is that our greatest threat lies in none of these possible areas. Our greatest threat lies within--in the cumulative growth of a kind of public cynicism about public leaders and public institutions that make it difficult, if not impossible, for the nation to agree on the kinds of common actions necessary to deal with our greatest problems--inadequate education, crumbling public facilities, incompetent officials, and doubt about the honesty of our fellow citizens.
Dr. Keith Benson of the History of Science Society responds:
Recently, Americans have been confronted with the reality that this country produces the largest amount of atmospheric gases that are linked to global warming. At the same time, Americans are reluctant to encourage their politicians to agree to accept the limits suggested by the international commission on global warming. If the scientific evidence continues to accumulate to link atmospheric change and industrial gases, Americans will be forced, perhaps by world opinion, to alter their cultural tie to our robust economy and to accept limits on industrial production for the good of the globe. Additionally, I do not think the "genetic revolution" associated with the Human Genome Project will yield the type of result that has been linked to it. Thus, the issue that will face Americans will be an environmental issue, not a scientific breakthrough.
Was Sputnik's real impact economic?