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Sputnik was a decisive event that initiated the Space Race. On one hand, it furthered divides between East and West, and helped kick off an arms race that led to thousands of nuclear warheads being deployed. On the other, the era of technical innovation and discovery that accompanied both the US’ and USSR’s efforts in space have proven invaluable to humanity. Sputnik represents a classic Russian solution to a scientific challenge.


Michael Sanders


Smithsonian Air and Space Museum



October 4, 1957
January 4, 1958


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Sphere with 4 radio antennas
23 inch diameter
184 pounds

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Jenna Louie

I appreciate your syntehsis of the way that Sputnik functioned as both a scientific and cultural/historical event in Soviet history. As a scientific achievement, Sputnik was indeed incredible. As a cultural achievement that pitted the Soviet arms race against America, it is one of the indespensible events that defines the 20th century. 

Jenny Shore

The Sputnik is such a famous symbol of competition between the US and Russia that I had never known before reading your object biography that it was an opportunity for a "bridge," as you put it. In many contexts, I think that inherent in competition is the need to recognize the other's positive qualities. That's obviously apparent here.

Also, we've talked in class about the Russian fascination with technology, in particular in the Soviet era, and I think it is interesting to understand the meaning of Sputnik in that context. It is striking to note that they were willing to sacrifice elaborate developments to simplicity just in order to be first.

Zachary Young

Sputnik was also important because it was a demonstration of Soviet ballistic missile capabilities (a space-launch rocket and a ballistic missile are very similar). The United States had long considered herself to be technologically superior to the Soviet Union in fields like aerospace and ballistic rocketry, so Sputnik was an important challenge to this paradigm.

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