Sixty years ago today, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite. The news electrified the U.S. and set off a sequence of events that eventually led to the Apollo 11 landing of two astronauts on the Moon 12 years later.

Here are some details of the story of how the Soviet satellite came to be:

Here is a CBS TV news report from October 1957:

To get an idea of the impact that Sputnik had on American society, I recommend Homer Hickam’s autobiographical book Rocket Boys. He recounts how as a youngster in a remote coal mining town he was so inspired by Sputnik and the US efforts to get to space that he and his friends began building rockets of their own. They were soon demanding that their high school teach advanced physics and calculus. Hickam later became a rocket engineer at NASA. Homer is featured in this video about the “Sputnik Moment” and the huge influence it had on US education:

From 1957 till the mid-1960s, there was a wave of intense interest and support in technology and science across American society. College entrance exam scores reached record highs. Many young people growing up during that period went into scientific and engineering fields outside of space but they credit space with first inspiring them to study science and math.

There were, however, some drawbacks to the crash program mentality that was set off by Sputnik. Here is a commentary on how Sputnik and the Space Race that followed between the US and the Soviet Union created a false view of how space can and should be developed: Sputnik at 60: How Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos Started a New Space Age | Rand Simberg/The Weekly Standard.