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Sputnik Declassified

Sputnik Declassified

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Item Number:
56 min.
Closed Caption:
WGBH Boston Video
Grade Level:
7 - 12
On October 4, 1957, the Space Age dawned with the red hue of the Communist flag when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite. Sputnik stunned the world and spurred the U.S. into massive spending on science education and innovation. But was Sputnik really a shock to America's leaders, and how close was the U.S. to getting into space first?

In fact, fierce political and personal rivalries collided over how and when the U.S. should enter space. President Eisenhower wanted a satellite to spy on the Russians but feared their response to an overtly military program. That led him to sideline the plans of the Wernher von Braun, charismatic leader of the U.S. Army's pioneering rocket team. Von Braun had tested all the technology required to launch a satellite over a year before Sputnik.

Then came the shocking news of Sputnik and, soon after, the catastrophic failure of the first U.S. satellite built by von Braun's rivals. This double disaster paved the way for von Braun's meteoric rise, the founding of NASA, and ultimately, Apollo's triumphant journey to the moon. Drawing on fresh interviews and newly discovered sources, Sputnik Declassified is a gripping, untold story of the rivalries and missteps in the first crucial chapter of the space race.

Special DVD features include: materials and activities for educators; a link to the NOVA Web site; scene selections; closed captions; and described video for the visually impaired.

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