What was your life like before Sputnik was sent into space?

Were you aware of what was happening in the country at the time? Describe what you knew about the Russians and the cold war before this happened?

What were your feelings about the cold war at the time?

How were you exposed to this information when Sputnik was launched?

How did you react to Sputnik? How did people around you react to this news?

What were your feelings towards the USSR after Sputnik? Why do you think this changed occured or did not occured?

What were the reactions of the country as a whole in your perspective after Sputnik?

How did Sputnik and the space race have an effect on your life? What things changed in your life because of the launch of Sputnik in 1957? (How did Sputnik and the space race effect people around you?)


Uncle Mike
Sputnik was launched in October of 1957 when I was 9 years old and just starting 4th grade. We had a typical kid's life. We lived in the country on 80 acres of land with no indoor running water or indoor plumbing. But, we didn't think it was all that much different than our other neighbors and kids we knew from school. We had a creek on our land and although the water was cold and the creek was shade there was an open area that was warm in the sun and we would take sand from the creek bank and build a dam so the 4 inches deep creek would back up to be about 12 inches deep. The dam didn't last too long before it washed out and the creek was only 4 inches deep again. Uncle Bill, Aunts Kathy and Pat and I would play in the woods, playing cowboys and Indians, and other things to entertain ourselves. We had a barn and Grandpa put up a basketball hoop at one end of the upper floor so we could play basketball inside. There were no lights in the barn or windows, so we had to open the door to get enough light to see. In the winter we had a hill right next to the house for sledding. My sled was always faster than uncle Bill's sled. We also had a field next to the house where we made a ball diamond and played softball and baseball. We all took our lunch school in metal lunch pails and at school we could roller skate on the concrete sidewalks and play ball with the other kids during recesses and lunch breaks. It was a real treat for us to have hot lunch once in awhile. We had a pretty good life we thought. Since I was just starting 4th grade in a rural school, I wasn't as advanced in reading as the 4th graders of today and although we did get the newspaper everyday, I don't remember reading the news in the paper, but more reading the comic strips. I really wasn't too aware of the cold war between the Soviets and the Americans until after Sputnik when the adults talked about the Russians being ahead of us in the space race and about the nuclear threats posed by the Russians. Until then, I really didn't have any feelings about the cold war. After Sputnik we felt very competitive as Americans and didn't want the Russians to be first in anything before us as Americans.

I am sure I heard about sputnik on the radio. We did get the newspaper everyday and we had gotten our first TV not long before Sputnik, but most of the news I remember was first heard on the radio. I am sure we also heard the news from our parents and other neighbors. Since I was just a nine year school boy at the time, I don't recall the reactions of the country as a whole to Sputnik, but I'm sure the feelings of our parents and adult neighbors reflected the feelings of the county as a whole. Americans refocused and doubled their efforts to match the Russians in the space race as soon as possible and overtake them in space technology as soon as possible as well. The space race heightened the threat that the Russians would be able to launch nuclear attacks on the United States and that became the threat to react to in the late fifties and early sixties. Air raid shelters and air raid drills became common place and many fathers even built bomb shelters in their basements and back yard. I remember adults saying that we lived in a direct line between Chicago and the Twin Cities which were sure to be targets if a nuclear war started I remember being concerned about a war and hoping that one would not occur.