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Beyond Planet Earth: Starting with Sputnik

by AMNH on

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In December 1957, two months after the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik 1, the first human-made object to enter space and the catalyst for the space race, the Museum published a memo titled “Calling All Scientists,” which observed how the lone satellite had shifted the public appraisal of scientists. “[P]ress people dashed up to the museum to get the Planetarium staff to help them explain to the public what had happened,” the memo read. “The scientists are now being turned to for guidance.”

While the Museum’s new exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration focuses on missions to explore space in the next 100 to 500 years, the opening of the exhibition takes a brief look back at “firsts” in space and features a full-sized model of Sputnik, a re-creation of the Vostok 1 capsule that carried Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, Moon gloves used in training for the Apollo 16 mission, and an authentic helmet from the Soviet space program.

More than 50 years later, the conclusion of the Museum’s Sputnik memo still rings true: “We think [the enthusiasm for science] is one of the most important changes ever to take place in American thinking. A race into space is much better than a bomb-throwing contest. Let’s hope the trend continues.”

Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration is now on view at the Museum. Click here to buy tickets, and click here to download the Beyond Planet Earth Augmented Reality App before your visit.