On 4 October 1957, the world changed. A series of beeps across the sky confirmed that the Soviet Union had won the first leg of the space race, by putting an artificial satellite into orbit. In his Perspective article, Joe Burns shares his memories of the Sputnik launch, and discusses its impact not only on US politics in a cold-war climate, but also on science: the huge boost in influence and funding for science and engineering; and the subsequent strides in understanding the physics of the cosmos, made possible through space-borne instrumentation. In an accompanying Commentary, as plans are drawn up for a return to the Moon, Mike Lockwood considers the science case for building a base there, and whether a human presence is justified.
[Perspective p664] ; [Commentary p669]