Keith Palmer (krpalmer) wrote,
Keith Palmer
krpalmer

Sputnik Plus Fifty

For the past few days I was keeping careful track of the date, "counting down" (as it were) to the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the first artificial Earth satellite... remembering along the way things like the "Space Age Electrical" sign I can pass on the way to work and the old book I read at my grandmother's many years ago laying out in careful detail for young readers how the first man-made satellite (generically named) would be launched by a rocket we now recognise as Vanguard. (Which did eventually work, and made some interesting discoveries with a satellite still "up there.")

In what may have been preparation of sorts for today, I read another, more recent book, "Sputnik: The Launch of the Space Race" by Paul Dickson, remembering my surprise when I found out that its original American edition cover had been titled "Sputnik: The Shock of the Century." The book outlines the spreading public, press, and political reaction and counter-reaction that followed, while pointing out that the Soviet Union had indeed publicised plans to launch an Earth satellite if not the precise date; the surprise of fifty years ago was, in a sense, the product of both sides. It's even tempting for me to see a satellite as one of the more reasonable and even invigorating ways to startle the world. (And as far as a lasting influence goes, an appendix to the book mentions how the word "beatnik," as opposed to just "Beat Generation," was directly inspired by the name "Sputnik.")

In thinking of a fiftieth anniversary, I did indulge in a bit of thinking back as to how the Space Age could have been perceived ten, twenty, thirty, and forty years ago, and how those perceptions might reflect on things right now. There's a variety of things ahead, and yet uncertainty as to how they might turn out if at all... which, in a way, may just show that things don't change all that much and it's best to just stay hopeful.
Tags: anniversary, space
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