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Sputnik: Scientific Advances, Public Perception, and Political Priorities in the Cold War

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Social Studies +4 Age Level Middle School (13 to 15 years old)
The Soviet launch of Sputnik did much more than simply send a satellite into space. The announcement that the USSR had successfully launched a satellite that orbited the Earth was used to dramatize Soviet scientific superiority and set into motion a series of actions and statements by U.S. politicians designed to manage the public's fears and prevent the United States from falling behind.

Guiding questions:
-When it comes to military strength, which is more important: reality or perception?
-How do the sciences impact national defense?
-Why was a space program considered important and necessary for both the Soviet Union and the United States?
-How and why do foreign events impact domestic politics and culture?

Tags: Wilson Center, Cold War, Space Race, Sputnik, Technology, Soviet Union, USSR, Communism