The first artificial satellite, launched 60 years ago, set us on the path to an interconnected worldby Paul Wallace / September 30, 2017 / Leave a comment
For Philip Larkin, sex began in 1963. Another poet might have singled out 1957 though for a different reason. For that was when Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was launched, changing forever the way we see ourselves and setting the path towards our high-tech, interconnected world, whose bright promise so often has a dark underside. That moment, 60 years ago on October 4th, still remains startlingly relevant.
At the time, the launch was seen through the all-defining lens of the Cold War. That the Soviet Union had stolen a technological march on America was deemed a national disaster, a post-war Pearl Harbour. The mood worsened as an American launch later that year failed ignominiously when the rocket blew up on the launchpad. By contrast the Russians had already scored a second success (though not for dog-lovers) by putting into orbit a much bigger satellite carrying Laika, an unfortunately doomed animal astronaut. The evident prowess of Soviet rocket technology sparked concern about a “missile gap,” which turned out to be illusory but was exploited by John F Kennedy in his campaign to win the 1960 presidential election.