Sputnik Years

The Sputnik Years

When a Russian rocket lofted Sputnik 1 into orbit on October 4, 1957, the Space Age—and the Space Race—had begun. American scientists had known the launch was coming because their Soviet counterparts had told them to expect it. But to an American public that had become accustomed to our country’s growing global primacy, the orbiting of Sputnik 1 was a traumatic wake-up call.

On October 4Kelly Beatty, award-winning senior editor for Sky & Telescope magazine, explores the events leading up to Sputnik's launch exactly 60 years ago, the political fallout that led to America's response (Explorer 1), the formation of NASA, and the crucial but largely forgotten role that everyday citizens played in tracking the first satellites.

Sputnik I

Other upcoming science programs

Animals on the Move

Animals on the Move: Following Digital Footprints
Evening Program with Book Signing
Wed., Sept. 20 at 6:45 PM
Tonight, three experts at the forefront of the animal tracking revolution and the intersections of data technology and animal migration offer fascinating accounts of animals on the move. Learn about the growing array of technologies in animal tracking with Jared Stabach, ecologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Oliver Uberti and James Cheshire.

String Theory

What Dinosaurs Tell Us
Evening Program with Book Signing
Thurs., Oct. 5 at 6:45 PM
Long after the last of them roamed the earth, dinosaurs continue to captivate us. But what can long-dead animals teach us about our future? Join paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara on a journey through time to discover how dinosaurs achieved feats unparalleled by any other group of animals.


Mindshift: Learning How to Learn
Evening Program with Book Signing
Wed., Oct. 18 at 6:45 PM
This evening, hear Barbara Oakley’s true stories of remarkable transformations and intriguing insights from research studies about how you can change and grow, no matter your age or stage of life. You’ll walk away with practical tools based on solid research—and you’ll have fun along the way!

Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly: A Year in Space
Evening Program
Fri., Nov. 3 at 7:00 PM
The veteran of four space flights, astronaut Scott Kelly discusses the dangers, achievements, and physical and emotional challenges he encountered during his record-breaking year aboard the International Space Station.

Presented in collaboration with Politics and Prose Bookstore

Code Girls

Code Girls: The Women Who Decrypted World War II
Evening Program with Book Signing
Wed., Nov. 15 at 6:45 PM
In 1942, more than 10,000 young women were recruited for a top-secret project in which they served as codebreakers for the U.S. Army and Navy. Their wartime achievements saved countless lives and aided the Allied victory—but were nearly erased from history. Author Liza Mundy rescues the code girls’ amazing story.

Inside Science

Inside Science: Smithsonian Associates Science Literacy
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