25 J o u r n e y s i n F i l m : H i d d e n F i g u r e s Enduring Understandings • Both competition and cooperation can spur innovation in space exploration. • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded largely as a response to the Russian launching of a space satellite called Sputnik. • Beginning in the 1980s, competition in space gave way to cooperation, particularly with the International Space Station. • Essential Questions • What are the advantages of competition when one is trying to achieve a goal? What are the advantages of cooperation? • How did the United States respond to the launching of Sputnik I? • Why and how has competition in space morphed into cooperation? Notes to the Teacher The film Hidden Figures takes place during a time when the United States was involved in a tense Cold War with the Soviet Union in the 1950s and 1960s. From July 1957 to December 1958, the scientific community tried to bring the post-WWII countries together in peace for the worldwide event known as the International Geophysical Year (IGY). During the IGY, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth, on October 4, 1957. The success of Sputnik was widely hailed as a scientific achievement, but also feared as a demonstration of Soviet political strength. From these anxieties, the space race was born. The initial reactions to Sputnik in the United States were complex. For example, many in the Eisenhower administration feared that the Soviets’ ability to launch satellites meant that they were capable of launching nuclear missiles from Europe to the United States. However, some surveys showed that public concern over Sputnik’s significance was not great. World reactions to Sputnik were also mixed. In India, for example, many saw the Soviet Union as the definitive world scientific leader. In Europe, however, many felt that this was a temporary glitch and that, in general, American scientific technology was superior to the that of the Soviets. By 1958, the United States had formed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with the goal of sending a human into space, orbiting the Earth, and eventually landing on the moon. Katherine Johnson and the other “human computers” featured in Hidden Figures played an integral part in NASA’s success. L e s s o n 2 (SOCIAL STUDIES, SCIENCE) Sputnik and the Origins of the Space Race
26 J o u r n e y s i n F i l m : H i d d e n F i g u r e s The lesson concludes with a discussion with students about how competition eventually gave way to collaboration and cooperation, using a NASA website about the current crew of the International Space Station. A good background article to help you prepare for this discussion is “Cooperation in space — The International Space Station benefits from ISO standards” at news_archive/news.htm?refid=Ref1555 .
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