A Moment for Science


March 16, 2020

On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik, the first-ever human-built object into space. This event was a defining moment for the United States, in correlation with both the Cold War and the space race and has been referred to as a Sputnik Moment. Two months later, on December 6th, 1957 the United States attempted to launch their first satellite into space but the fuel tanks on the rocket that was to send it in off the earth exploded. This became a moment of “science awakening” in the US, changing the course of science education.

Today, we look for the next Sputnik Moment, to change the direction of science education with policy, support and funding. There have been many moments that looked like they could be the next opportunity for us to change the course of science education. From the war on terror to climate change, to the most recent outbreak of Covid-19, which time could still tell if this is that moment. As large of an issue that climate change is across the world and the possibility that this could be that moment, it has not seemed to be the case, at least in the United States. While some believe we will not be able to engineer or science our way out this, there are ways that the field of STEM can slow down and perhaps reverse the effects of climate change. Investments in STEM fields and education can work to find alternatives to the damage that is being done. The response to Sputnik started with the work of the military but then progressed into the formation of NASA and involved over 400,000 people and 20,000 companies involved in the race to the moon. Every dollar spent on the program was spent right here on earth, as was every investment into STEM education. The same would be true with the issue of climate change. Any money spent to invest in renewable resources and protect life on our planet would be done so here on earth, benefiting the people of earth With the US withdraw from the Paris Climate accord we are getting left before in the issue of climate change, both financially and in aspects of infrastructure. Fighting climate change as the next Sputnik Moment would involve everyone, on every level and could change the direction of life on earth.


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Burke, S. & Squassoni, S. (2014, December 22). Why climate change isn’t a sputnik moment: military technology can’t innovate us out of this one. Slate.com Retrieved from https://slate.com/technology/2014/12/climate-change-isnt-a-sputnik-moment-why.html

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