Sociology Index


Sputnik is the first earth-orbiting satellite, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957. The successful launching of Sputnik satellite shocked western countries and initiated the space race.

In response to the Sputnik launch and to compete with the Soviet Union, western countries, especially the United States, restructured education at all levels and massively increased funding for science programs and scientific research.

Looking back: Sputnik - Swenson, G.W., Jr., Dept. of Electr. Eng., Illinois Univ., Urbana, IL.
Abstract: Briefly discusses the circumstances leading to the launch of Sputnik 1. Radio observations of the signal are described leading to an ephemeris. The radio transmissions of the very early satellites are considered from an ionospheric research point of view.

Public Opinion and Foreign Threats: Eisenhower's Response to Sputnik 
Rodger A. Payne, University of Louisville - Armed Forces & Society, Vol. 21, No. 1, 89-111 (1994)
This article examines a case using declassified archival information to examine responsiveness in a situation ripe for manipulation. U.S. reactions to Soviet Sputnik launches are scrutinized.

President Eisenhower was much less concerned about Soviet actions than was the general public but nonetheless substantially altered many defense programs in order to meet perceived public demands. The President acknowledged privately that at least two-thirds of a spending supplement was used to meet public fears, not real security needs. This finding is inconsistent with prevailing realist theories and standard historical interpretations.

Sputnik - Abstract: The Army Ballistic Missile Agency incorporated the von Braun team in key positions with Dr. von Braun as a head of the Development Operations Division. On October 4, 1957, the Nation was shocked when the Russians launched Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite. Two months later, the United States suffered disappointment when a Navy Vanguard rocket, with its satellite payload, failed to develop sufficient thrust and toppled over on the launch pad. -

20 Years After Sputnik 
David, Leonard, Source: Journal of Aerospace Education, 4, 6, 7-11, Oct 77 
Abstract: Reviews development of aerospace technology in the 20 years since the first launching of Sputnik I. -

Rodger W. Bybee, Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education - National Research Council
"At a recent meeting of science teachers, a colleague who was chairing the panel, asked me her favorite question about the current reform of science and mathematics education, "Why is this educational reform different from all other reforms?" October 4, 1997, the 40th anniversary of Sputnik, presents the opportunity for educators to ask how the Sputnik era was different from other reforms. In this essay I use the Sputnik era to illuminate aspects of educational reform that have implications for the contemporary period."
"The educational reform of the 1950s and 1960s was already in progress when the Soviet Union placed Sputnik in orbit. However, Sputnik still played a significant role in educational reform. It has become a historical turning point. For the public, it symbolized a threat to American security, to our superiority in science and technology, and to our progress and political freedom. In short, the United States perceived itself as scientifically, technologically, militarily, and economically weak. As a result, educators, scientists, and mathematicians broadened and accelerated educational reform, the public understood and supported the effort, and the policy makers increased federal funding."
"Just as social and political factors had initiated and supported the Sputnik era of educational reform, in the 1960s social and political factors also arose and acted as countervailing forces to the pursuit of excellence, high academic standards, and learning the conceptual and methodological basis of science and mathematics disciplines. I should also note that in the Sputnik era political, social, and economic support combined with the enthusiasm of scholars and a single focus on replacing curriculum programs omitted what I consider a necessary aspect of educational reform--establishing policies at the state and local levels that would sustain the innovative programs in the school system."

The Evolution of the NASA-DoD Relationship from Sputnik to the Lunar Landing.
Personal Author(s) : Erickson, Mark A.
Abstract : Between Sputnik's launching in October 1957 and the lunar landing in July 1969 America sponsored five human spaceflight projects. NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo were well publicized and to varying degrees Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson used them as tools for garnering international prestige in the cold war competition with the Soviet Union. What did each president believe about using space exploration as a cold war competitive tool? Eisenhower was not at all keen on such a construct: he did not believe the US should race to the moon in search of prestige. Kennedy did and reoriented American space policy toward the moon.