Sputnik sparked ambition in America 50 years ago. Its anniversary calls for moments of reflection. On behalf of the event, Temple looks back at our past and forward at our future.
Mia Luerhrmann, associate dean of the College of Science and Technology, along with Vice Dean of Undergraduate affairs for the College of Liberal Arts Benjamin Rifkin, aimed to constitute a Sputnik commemoration that focused on the events relevance to the present.
“I think a lot of people view anniversaries as times to reflect, as times to really take stock and think of what these events caused that were good, bad, and maybe what we should be doing again,” Luerhrmann said.
As one of the seven NASA astronauts who succeeded American objectives in the space race, Scott Carpenter offered Temple valuable moments Oct. 5 to reflect on the events sparked by Sputnik.
Prior to the event, The Temple News caught up with the astronaut and asked some questions reflecting Sputnik’s relevance to Temple’s student body.
The Temple News: According to national polls, education in America seems to be lacking behind those who lead in the world’s intelligent forces. How does the current state mirror Sputnik times?
Scott Carpenter: “This same problem that you are concerned with now in the 21st century was all of a sudden very important in Sputnik times because Sputnik scarred us all. It made us think there was something wrong with what we were doing because Russians were so much smarter than we are and that changed the education.”
TTN: Is the fear you mentioned reminiscent to the fear and anxiety many Americans face now pertaining to foreign affairs, and if so, what distinguished the similar feelings 50 years ago?
SC: “There’s nothing wrong with anxiety. There is something wrong with what you do with it. Anxiety could make you turn your face away, but it also could turn your face to the problem. Don’t give in to it. Solve it.”
TTN: Being the first human to explore both inner and outer space, what did you like better about either or?
SC: “It’s hard to compete with the minds of other inspectors with the glory of space flight. And, if you’re motivated by glory, then space flight is a good occupation to marvel in. There’s lot of problems to be solved.”
But, the ocean is also worth our attention. And it is hard to work there. Well, it’s hard to work in space, too, but we did figure out how to work in the ocean and we should do it more. It is an underdog. It isn’t glorious like space flight, but it has in its pursuit some of the finest unsung items I’ve ever known. So, if you want to drive that further into, what should I do, fly or dive. . .follow your heart.”
TTN: What advice do you have for students who aspire to pursue a career in science and technology?
SC: “I would say to students, continue your education as long as possible. And follow any scientific discipline you’d like because space flight serves every science discipline. Stay in school and persevere.”
Scott Carpenter’s incredible health, which ensured his physical compatibility to become a pioneering explorer 50 years ago, prevailed. His inspirational and ambitious attitude shined through his words. An audience of professors, faulty and students greeted Carpenter with a long welcoming applause.
“I’m impressed Temple got Scott Carpenter to talk about the importance of today,” said Temple film student Greg Wolf.
“I was proud of what the Russians have done. However, I was disappointed it didn’t belong to us. It touched my patriotism,” Carpenter told the crowd.
“Perseverance kept us in the race. Competition is very good for the pursuit of effort. Competition with the Soviets drew us, and them to do a better job.
“Now world powers are cooperating,” he continued. “Cooperation is not as aspiring without competition. I’ll take my peace and sit down by saying, China lurks!”
Shara Harad can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.