Topic -- The Space Race and Sputnik
Interview Subject -- Mike Jeffers (Mererdith's Uncle)

The Space Race was a large part of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both sides saw the time as a chance to demonstrate their knowledge in science and engineering to show the world. Both nations have also been working on developing missiles not only to strengthen their military, but both nations also hoped that during the time, they would be able to develop a rocket allowing them to place a satellite in orbit.

On official terms, the Space Race began on October 4, 1957 when Sputnik 1, a satellite, was sent into orbit around the earth by the Soviets. This satellite meant that the Soviet Union had enough missile power to reach the United States and the government grew worried. American scientists raced to launch their satellite and Congress set billions of dollars aside for space research. The second Sputnik satellite was launched November 3, 1957 and carried a dog named Laika into orbit. These ongoing "defeats" caused the United States to increase their dedication in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

After Americans learned that Sputnik 1 had launched into space and after they watched numerous more triumphs by the Soviets, they questioned the ability of the United States to catch up the Soviets. Many Americans were surprised by the gap between U.S. and Soviet missile technology. Others said that this suggested a "lack of rigor" in America's Secondary schools, especially in science and mathematics.

Though the Soviets had technically "won" the Space Race by launching an artificial satellite into space before the United States, Americans have learned much from past defeats. Robert Gray said, "it's extremely important for U.S. history students to see what came from the Sputnik days of the late 1950s to the present and say, 40 to 50 years from now, where are we going to be in space?' and these students will be part of that." In retrospect, Sputnik and the Space Race was definitely the greatest lesson to be learned.

Veve, Thomas D. "space race." American History. 2009. ABC-CLIO. 26 May 2009
"Sputnik." American History. 2009. ABC-CLIO. 26 May 2009
"Creating America" (799)


Sputnik, the first artificial satellite launched by USSR

Two men listening to the audio coming from Sputnik.

Sputnik, the first artificial satelite launched by the USSR.