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Washington journalist Paul Dickson chronicles the dramatic events and developments leading up to and emanating from Sputnik's launch. Supported by groundbreaking, original research and many recently declassified documents, Sputnik offers a fascinating profile of the early American and Soviet space programs and a strikingly revised picture of the politics and personalities behind the facade of America's fledgling efforts to get into space.
Although Sputnik was unmanned, its story is intensely human. Sputnik owed its success to many people, from the earlier visionary, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, whose rocket theories were ahead of their time, to the Soviet spokesmen strategically positioned around the world on the day the satellite was launched, who created one of the greatest public-relations events of all time. Its chief designer, however-the brilliant Sergey Korolov-remained a Soviet state secret until after his death.
Equally hidden from view was the political intrigue dominating America's early space program, as the military services jockeyed for control and identity in a peacetime world. For years, former Nazi Wernher von Braun, who ran the U.S. Army's missile program, lobbied for his rocket team to be handed responsibility for the first Earth-orbiting satellite. He was outraged that Sputnik beat him and America into space. President Eisenhower, though, was secretly pleased that the Russians had launched first, because by orbiting over the United States Sputnik established the principle of "freedom of space" that could justify the spy satellites he thought essential to monitor Soviet missile buildup. As Dickson reveals, Eisenhower was, in fact, much more a master of the Sputnik crisis than he appeared to be at the time and in subsequent accounts.
The U.S. public reaction to Sputnik was monumental. In a single weekend, Americans were wrenched out of a mood of national smugness and post-war material comfort. Initial shock at and fear of the Soviets' intentions galvanized the country and swiftly prompted innovative developments that define our world today. Sputnik directly or indirectly influenced nearly every aspect of American life, from the demise of the suddenly superfluous tail fin and an immediate shift towards science in the classroom to the arms race that defined the cold war, the competition to reach the Moon, and the birth of the Internet.
Shedding new light on a pivotal era, Paul Dickson reminds us that the story of Sputnik goes far beyond technology and the beginning of the space age, and that its implications are still being felt today.
Author Biography: Long fascinated by space and the cold war, Paul Dickson is the author of more than forty books on diverse topics, including two works of investigative journalism, Think Tanks and The Electronic Battlefield. He lives in Garrett Park, Maryland, with his wife, Nancy.
“This is a stunning book that captures the excitement and angst of the dawning of the space age.”—Dallas Morning News
“Sputnik is a fascinating slice of useful social history.”—USA Today
“[Dickson’s] research is painstaking, his attention to detail exemplary…it flows smoothly and clearly—an admirable quality in history.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“The best book on the political shockwaves following Sputnik.”—New Scientist
“Culling from recently declassified documents as well as traditional historical assessments and news accounts, [Dickson] resurrects the drama and intrigue surrounding Sputnik with a perspective space junkies will find illuminating and new.”—Houston Chronicle
“An ominous foreign presence suddenly seems to take control of the skies—‘Another Pearl Harbor!’ some shout. Initial fears are replaced by a determination to meet the challenge, and America declares that life has changed forever. Sounds familiar, but the transforming event of Paul Dickson’s book is not the crash of hijacked airliners last 9/11; it is the Soviet Union’s launch in October 1957 of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.”—Washington Post
|4.||An Open Sky||76|
|5.||The Birth of Sputnik||94|
|Appendix||Sputnik's Long, Lexical Orbit||249|
|Author's Note, Acknowledgments, and Dedication||255|