In 1961 an expansion of the space program started, one that could be described as nothing less than dramatic, committing to the goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade (Space Program, 2014). The positive effects of the space program have been astounding, with impacts that are still felt to this day in a wide variety of fields, though perhaps the most noticeable at this time falls within the realm of technological advances (Positive Effects of the Space Program, 2014). There have been many aspects of the space program and space projects that have had a noticeable societal impact on the world; from Apollo to the space shuttle, from ISS to Hubble, and from Sputnik to Space X, the benefits thereof have been many. In spite of the fact that each space project or space program has resulted in positive efforts, even those that appeared to result in immediate failure, perhaps the one that has had the greatest societal impact on the world today was Sputnik.
Sputnik’s effects were many, and just looking to the effects on computing and the leaps forward as a result of the launch and successful orbiting of this small satellite in 1957 were staggering in and of themselves (Fielbig, 2011). It was not its computing prowess that Sputnik was known for however. The Space Race of the late 1950s was well underway at the time of Sputnik’s launch and the very launch of the satellite came as a great shock to much of the United States given the fact that the U.S. was convinced that they would be the first to reach this milestone (Sputnik, 1957, 2014). Spurred on by fears that the U.S. was being outstripped by Russia, a grave fear during this time, the U.S. immediately stepped up their game in regard to the space program and space exploration; in fact, it may be argued that it was as a result of the launch of Sputnik that President John F. Kennedy made the promises that he did in regard to placing a man on the moon before the decade was out (Dickson, 2007). It was this concern with being left behind and a desire for America to be first that served to place the nation into a space frenzy. The slow beep of Sputnik was transmitted across airwaves for the duration of time that the signal could be picked up, and many students, including the now famous Homer Hickam were goaded into action, working to become the best of the best, the future rocket scientists of the nation, as a result of this seemingly inconsequential noise (Hickam, 1998).
Sputnik was the first ever manmade object to enter into space, and though many different objects have followed it, to the point that now the Earth has an issue with space debris (Moskowitz, 2012). The largest contribution of a space program or project to the world at large was Sputnik as it served as a means of showing the world what was possible with the appropriate drive and dedication, working to ensure that every single attempt made to enter into space after that was as a direct result of Sputnik’s legacy (Moskowitz, 2012). Without Sputnik, it is possible that NASA would have long ago faded into oblivion, that Space X would not currently exist as a company, that missions to Mars would not be in the works, and that the ISS would not exist. Every invention and technical innovation that has occurred as a result of exploration into space, including such mundane items as Velcro and memory foam mattresses may all have their roots traced back to that first slow beep, something that the nation, and the world, should be forever grateful for.
- Dickson, P. (2007). Sputnik’s Impact on America. Pbs.org. Retrieved 29 November 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/sputnik-impact-on-america.html
- Fielbig, M. (2011). The Effects of the Sputnik Launch on Computing. Ic.sunysb.edu. Retrieved 29 November 2014, from http://www.ic.sunysb.edu/Stu/mfielbig/cse301/sputnik.html
- Hickam, H. (1998). Rocket boys. New York: Delacorte Press.
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. (2014). Space Program. Retrieved 29 November 2014, from http://www.jfklibrary.org/JFK/JFK-in-History/Space-Program.aspx
- Moskowitz, C. (2012). How Sputnik Changed the World 55 Years Ago Today. Space.com. Retrieved 29 November 2014, from http://www.space.com/17894-sputnik-anniversary-changed-the-world.html
- Office of the Historian. (2014). Sputnik, 1957. Retrieved 29 November 2014, from https://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/sputnik
- The U.S. Space Program. (2014). Positive Effects of the Space Program. Retrieved 29 November 2014, from https://sites.google.com/a/scasd.org/website-design/Space-Program/positive-effects-of-the-space-program