Sputnik Paper

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History happens all the time. No matter how big or small the event may seem each piece shapes us into the society, country and world we are today. The 1950s through 1970s were an important time period for the United States. Nationally, the nation was in the middle of a large civil rights movement, partly led by Martin Luther King Jr., with African Americans protesting and fighting for their rights. President John F. Kennedy was elected and assassinated while he pushed for an anti-communist America. The United States was also involved worldwide, coming out of World War II, fighting the Vietnam War and partaking in the Cold War against the Soviet Union. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred between the Soviet Union and the United States during a nuclear arms race. With all of these things taking place, many times people forget this was a huge time in the advancement of the space race across the globe. Almost every country wanted to take part in the race to put the first man on the moon. On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union started the battle by springing the world into this great space race by the launching of Sputnik I. Sputnik was the first satellite to be launched into Earth’s orbit, a task which no one else had been successful in nor fully concerned in trying. However, once the Soviet Union made the first move, it sent not only the United States into a panic, but everyone else as well. By far the biggest surprise of Sputnik’s launching was the fact no one envisioned its success. The Soviets caught the world off guard with their new satellite, even when talk of the satellite had occurred months in advance. After this historical event, many Americans began to question everything happening around them. What was the Soviet Union’s true mission behind the launch? If they made a satellite, what other technological advancements could they secretively be working on? What does America need to do as a country to protect itself against these forces? With all of these questions circulating, the American people became concerned if the nation was prepared for what the rest of the world might be working on. It is easy to say, the launching eventually led to the United States further involvement in the Cold War, increasing terror throughout America toward the Soviet Union, and the development of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Cold War began in 1945, right after the ending of World War II. The United States was involved in the Cold War since it began, but their involvement began to waver as the years went on. At the time Sputnik was launched, the United States seemed to be trying to stay away from the involvement in the Cold War, which they had successfully stepped back from because it was generally believed that if the war became “hot” that the conflict would be within Europe. Once Sputnik was launched, Russia was showing the world that they also had the power to launch an intercontinental ballistics missile, ICBM, to places much farther than the European borders such as the United States. It was reported that although the Russians may have the power to launch the ICBM, that “did not necessarily mean that any Russian ICBM was accurate at range.” Although this should have given some Americans a little peace of mind, it did not last very long since a few months later “it was disclosed that an American radar station in Turkey had tracked Russian missiles that hit targets…more than 4,000 miles from their launching sites.” America could not deny that the Soviet Union was not only leading in the space race but had the dangerous potential to turn the Cold Was into something much more dangerous and deadly. This frightening reality forced the United States to become more involved in the Cold War and lead to the involvement in events such as the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both of these major events could be attributed to the United States’ necessary involvement in the Cold War due to the Soviet Union’s...
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