Modern History/Space Exploration
Wikibooks Modern History
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The Roman Catholic Church was very much in control of early astronomy.
Sputnik, a small metal ball with instruments attached to it, was the first man-made object to leave earth and orbit it. It was really technologically, simple, and would set the tone for much of the Soviet Union's space exploration program.
The first satellites were launched by the Soviet Union at the end of the 1950's. If they can put a satellite into space, they can launch a warhead at the United States. This was what spurred the United States to start their own space program to challenge the perceived "Soviet Superiority", and start academically challenging students to be successful in Math and the Sciences.