The Soviet Union surprised the world 50 years ago today by launching Sputnik 1. Even though there have been lots of commentaries and rememberances, I wanted to mark the occasion here for a couple of reasons.
First, there was the reaction in the US. There was the total shock that the Soviets could be us at something. The steps the US took were totally correct – to emphasize education, particularly in math and science. Contrast this with Baby Bush’s reaction to 9/11, which was to tell everyone to go out and consume. I’m not sure that a jarring event would have such an effect in this day and age. I’m not sure our nation is able to admit that they are lagging, or that they are heading down the wrong road, and put a plan in place to make corrections with education. Given recent trends, education spending would be cut while military spending would run amuck. I would hope otherwise, but all evidence would suggest not.
Secondly, Sputnik, and anything space-related has a special significance because of my late father-in-law. He was an engineer with Hughes Aircraft, and worked on several of their early satellite programs, including the Pioneer series that was sent to Venus. According to Laura, he would come home and discuss what he did at work with the family. It’s no wonder both Laura and Amy turned out to be research scientists. She said that his team had designed the heat shielding for the first Pioneer Venus probe. The story goes that Hughes paid the team a bonus for every minute past the design specifications that the spacecraft survived. It seems that they racked up quite the paycheck for that particular mission.
So, the bright shiny basketball went beep beep across the sky, and directly altered my family’s path in multiple ways. I think that’s worth remembering.
[tags]Sputnick, Hughes Aircraft, Pioneer[/tags]