Happy Birthday to Sputnik 1, launched 51 years ago today. Those of us who lived and breathed comics and science fiction saw an inevitable first step toward space exploration, and we picked up on the omigod vibe that the Russians beat us to it. Of course we didn’t see the whole picture, which you can get from Nova’s “Sputnik Declassified” – we didn’t get that the space race was about military surveillance, not scienterrific exploration of the cosmos. If you think Reagan’s “star wars” plan, the Strategic Defense Initiative, was new thinking, guess again. Eisenhower was already there.

Check out PBS’s Space Race Timeline.

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