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NOVA: Sputnik Declassified
NOVA Sputnik Declassified
Actor: Nova
Director: Nova
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Documentary
NR     2008     0hr 56min

The world changed fifty years ago, on October 4, 1957, when the U.S. public heard the shocking news that the Soviet Union had successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnik I. Why didnít the U.S. beat the Soviets in th...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Nova
Director: Nova
Genres: Special Interests, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Transportation, Educational, History, Military History, Science & Technology
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 02/19/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 0hr 56min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Mis titled documentary
bob | charlottesville VA | 06/08/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This product has almost nothing to do with sputnik. Actual descriptions of sputnik and its launch are essentially nonexistent. It is solely the US's reaction to sputnik and other satellite projects the US had underway at the time of sputnik's launch. If you are looking for a movie on details of the Russian space program/sputnik look elsewhere. If you are looking for an overview of the German rocket programs after WWII and how the US adapted the German rockets into their own space program this is the documentary for you."
Sputnik Declassified
Henry Young | Andover, MA USA | 06/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My brother, a rocket engineer who was placed on Werner Von Braun's staff when he was commissioned in the Army in the mid-50s and then transitioned to NASA as project manager for the last stage of the Saturn rocket that sent men to the moon, says that this is an excellent history of the earliest years of the space program. It also presents little known information about President Eisenhower's main interest in using space for surveillance and how Sputnik solved legal and diplomatic issues holding him up."
Sputnik Declassified-Why we were second in space.
Keith Mirenberg | | 08/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"NOVA: Sputnik Declassified (2007) was an excellent five star documentary on the reasons for our being second in space to orbit an earth satellite. This DVD featured excellent footage of the V-2, Jupiter C, Explorer, and Vanguard, very good CGI effects, and informative interviews with several early space workers.

With the best of intentions, President Eisenhower wished to establish the freedom of space doctrine using a non-military civilian program to launch the Vanguard Satellite. Then after this and the necessary development of the once secret Project Corona hardware, we could orbit a reconnaissance satellite from the safe and internationally legal vantage point of earth orbit. This was Ike's vision for space, the acquisition of hard intelligence which could keep us informed and help us to avoid a hot war with the Soviets. That was Eisenhower's only real interest for investing in a satellite. I understand that Ike believed that space and the moon would be there for a long time and did not believe we should be in any hurry to get there. He also appeared to believe that we had some down to earth problems to solve first.

The Russians demonstrated the freedom of space doctrine for us by their launching of Sputnik; however, as everyone knows the U.S. lost much prestige to the Soviets. After the launch of Sputnik II and the dog Lika, President Eisenhower realized he must authorize the U.S. Army's von Braun Team to launch their Explorer I satellite developed quietly with JPL. I believe that Ike realized that this team with their successful Redstone booster rocket (modified with JPL upper stages and the Explorer I satellite) would be able to achieve earth orbit first. Although there is nothing written to document this, many people in government felt the war with Germany was still too fresh a memory for us to permit that team to be a part of this prestigious accomplishment.

Again, with the best of intentions, the Naval Research Lab (NRL), a civilian agency of engineers and scientists, was selected to develop a more ambitious civilian undertaking based on experience with the successful Martin Company Viking sounding rocket. It was known that Vanguard would use much more advanced rocket technology than Explorer, but would be a long shot to develop in time for an early history making launch. Unfortunately, the first rushed launch attempt of the Vanguard resulted in a dramatic pad explosion and fire. However, the third Vanguard was successful and the satellite is still in orbit, a great credit to the engineering talent of NRL. Vanguard eventually orbited a 50 pound satellite in later attempts.

The Army's team of JPL and German rocket engineers were very disappointed in the decision, but under von Braun's direction worked quietly on their satellite as a backup to the Vanguard. Army workers believed they could have orbited the first American satellite almost a year before the USSR. After the first failure of the Navy Vanguard, the Army von Braun Team were ordered to place their Explorer I satellite in orbit. Von Braun indicated he could do it in thirty days. They were directed to take sixty, but do everything possible to make the project a success. With that short fuse it is fortunate the von Braun (under Army authorization or possibly his own), directed his team to work secretly. Von Braun stored a selected IRBM launch vehicle under the plausible cover of being a long term storage test of Army's Redstone. If the Vanguard made it into orbit first, the stored Jupiter C would have remained a long term storage test.

So official was the order for von Braun's Team not to orbit the first American Satellite that:

1) Earnest Stuhlinger of the von Braun Team said during his interview that he had to work at home in his garage on Jupiter C / Explorer I hardware.

2) Lee Webster said during his interview that if the Army team had received the "go ahead" the US could have beaten the Russians by approximately one year. He also knew that the launch vehicle was in storage.

3) Randy Clinton of the von Braun Team said during his interview that in order to keep an auditor team in the dark about their progress on the secret Army satellite project he kept the Explorer I satellite in his trunk during an audit. Officially, the von Braun Team could only do calculations and think about the problem.