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Edwin Marcus Sputnik Cartoon

It was 50 years ago today that ham-radio enthusiasts had the first opportunity to hear an odd beeping sound coming from the heavens: It was Sputnik, the first artificial satellite.

A recent CBS Sunday Morning segment reminded us that today (Oct. 4, 2007), marks the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union.

With our country in the middle of a Cold War, many Americans found this event both frightening and humiliating. It launched more than just a satellite ? it also launched the ?space race? and soon forced the U.S. out of its complacency about its technological position in the world (as the accompanying cartoon by Edwin Marcus depicts).

Those wishing to research the space race and other topics in the Library?s vast aeronautical collections will benefit from an Oct. 24 lecture by aviation historian Tom Crouch (biographer of the Wright Brothers), who will discuss his experiences conducting research at the Library during the past 40 years.

Crouch?s lecture will mark the upcoming publication of a new Library of Congress book titled ?Aeronautical and Astronautical Resources of the Library of Congress: A Comprehensive Guide.? From the papers of the Wright Brothers and other notable aviators housed in the Library?s Manuscript Division to cartoons and drawings in the Prints & Photographs Division, the book surveys the Library?s aeronautical holdings in its General Collections and Special Collections ? arguably the best in the world.

Researchers might be surprised to learn that anthropologist Margaret Mead (whose collection is housed at the Library) collected drawings of Sputnik by American and Balinese children. These were included in the Library?s 2001 exhibition titled ?Margaret Mead: Human Nature and the Power of Culture,? which documented the centennial of her birth.

UPDATE: The Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division has posted its own list of Sputnik resources, one of which is this very post (smiles proudly).

(Thanks once again to Audrey Fischer for help with this post. Note: Original post has been updated with a more appropriate cartoon.)

Comments (6)

  1. Anyway, the launch of our sputnik forced US to develop space research 🙂

  2. I was 6 years old when sputnik hit the news. I do remember that it had the grownups talking. Too bad I was too little to understand it all at the time.

    I do however remember growing up during the space race. What a great time for new toys. Cowboys and Indians went out the window.

  3. I was but a wee child of 8 when I first heard about Sputnik. I’m not sure if growing up during the space race affected much of this girl’s childhood, but my brothers sure went crazy for those rockets.

  4. They sent up Sputnik and we sent out “Leave It To Beaver.” Coincidence? Well, who won the Cold War?

  5. I was born many years later from space research in other european country, but this chapter of the history of the USA and URSS is too known around the world.

    It was much more than a simple research race…it was proud, power and much more…and Russia menaced USA with the first satellite, new balistic missiles improvements and other features.

    This history is amazing…

  6. This article was a good thing to read.
    I was born many years later after this news spread.. i heard a lot of this news but now i truly understand what that news was all about..

    Thanks a lot on sharing this.

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