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Both countries [Russia and the United States] knew that preeminence in space was a condition of their national security. That conviction gave both countries a powerful incentive to strive and compete. The Soviets accomplished many important firsts, and this gave us a great incentive to try harder.
The space program also accomplished another vital function in that it kept us out of a hot war. It gave us a way to compete technologically, compete as a matter of national will. It may have even prevented World War III, with all the conflict and fighting focused on getting to the moon first, instead of annihilating each other. There’s no evidence of that, but as eyewitness to those events, I think that’s what happened.”
– American astronaut Scott Carpenter quoted in Into that Silent Sea (p. 138).
The principal impetus for my entering a career in science … was the successful launching of Sputnik in 1957, and the then current belief that science and technology was going to be where the action was in the coming decades.
— Richard E. Smalley
From 'Richard E. Smalley: Biographical', collected in Tore Frängsmyr (ed.), Les Prix Nobel: The Nobel Prizes 1996 (1997).
Listen now for the sound that forevermore separates the old from the new.
[Introducing the beep-beep chirp transmitted by the Sputnik satellite.]
— NBC Radio
NBC radio announcer on the night of 4 Oct 1957. In 'The Nation: Red Moon Over the U.S.',Time (14 Oct 1957)
The successful launching of the Sputnik was a demonstration of one of the highest scientific and technological achievements of man—a tantalizing invitation both to the militarist in search of ever more devastating means of destruction and to the astronomer searching for new means of carrying his instruments away from their earthbound environment.
— Sir Bernard Lovell
In BBC Reith Lecture (9 Nov 1958), 'Astronomy Breaks Free', published as The Individual and the Universe (1959, 1961), 72.
Bill Gates, Microsoft cofounder :
In order for the United States to do the right things for the long term, it appears to be helpful for us to have the prospect of humiliation. Sputnik helped us fund good science - really good science: the semiconductor came out of it.
Katherine Patterson, Author of Children Literature works,
More than fifty years ago Sputnik dramatically raised the nation's awareness of what was lacking in science and math education in America. What we need to wake people up to now is the crisis in imagination and concern for the greater good.