In an era when billionaire tourists book rides in spaceships, launching a basketball-sized satellite into outer space might seem mundane. But when the Russians put Sputnik into orbit 50 years ago today, it kicked off much more than a Cold War competition. It signalled the start of an electrifying era in which, says NPR commentator and then-wide-eyed kid Andrew Chaiken, "Every day, things that had been science fiction were turning into fact."
""There couldn't have been a better time to be a kid—amazing things were happening." And though the Cold War is long over, Chaiken argues, the space race launched by Sputnik is really about man's endless need to explore. "What began with Sputnik is just the opening chapter in a story that has no end. It's about the very essence of who we are—we are meant to make discoveries."