Episode Information

NOVA: Sputnik Declassified
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In this episode:

The space race!


John Small, Dr. J. E. Froehlich, Dr. Albert R. Hibbs, Karl W. Linnes and Robert Victor (all from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory) surround the Alpha satellite (1958).


Sputnik Declassified

Aired Tuesday, December 16, at 8:00 p.m. on CPTV

The world changed on October 4, 1957, when the U.S. public heard the shocking news that the Soviet Union had successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik I.

Why didn't the U.S. beat the Soviets in this first crucial round of the space race? NOVA reveals an astonishing behind-the-scenes story of the politics and personalities that collided over the earliest efforts to get America into space, long before the founding of NASA.

Anticommunist witch-hunts drove some of the nation's most talented rocketry pioneers out of the country even as we welcomed Wernher von Braun and his former Nazi colleagues. With help from Walt Disney, von Braun's vision of future space travel swiftly captivated U.S. TV watchers.

But even as he became the first media star of the Space Age, von Braun's attempts to build space probes were hobbled by inter-service rivalries. In "Sputnik Declassified," NOVA details the story of the technological and political missteps that made the U.S. lose out to the Soviets' beeping electronic basketball. Learn more...

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