|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?
Michael L. Bauccio of Seattle, WA, asks:
Wouldn't it be reasonable to say that one of the primary legacies of Sputnik's success was economic (or business) related -- i.e., the "shot-in-the-arm" provided by U.S. Government funding to engineering firms that hired technical personnel to develop advanced space vehicles, which eventually surpassed the capabilities of Sputnik?
Dr. Keith Benson of the History of Science Society responds:
This may be one of the legacies, but I think it is unquestionable that the major long-term legacy will be in terms of the scientific infrastructure that was built by the federal government in response to Sputnik--including the infrastructure within industry (Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, Martin Marietta, etc.).
Haynes Johnson, journalist and author, responds:
You're right. Perhaps the greatest, and most lasting, legacy of Sputnik was the blank check given business (the vaunted military-industrial complex!) by Congress in the wake of the Earth-orbiting satellites. You're right, also, that the greatest amount of this spending went to the engineering firms and private-public university research labs that helped develop our ever-greater advance in space technology.
Many positive developments flowed from this commitment, but the debate continues as to whether we could have made even greater scientific and technological advances had anything approaching the vast spending that went for defense was placed instead into basic research aimed at improving the quality of life finding cures to such diseases of cancer, and the rest.
What will replace the Cold War as a motivation to explore space?