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Sputnik Mania

A brisk, informative documentary
By BETSY SHERMAN  |  June 11, 2008
3.0 3.0 Stars
sputnikinside.jpg

Science fiction became fact when the Soviets launched the satellite Sputnik on October 4, 1957. In David Hoffman’s brisk, informative documentary, Americans marvel that something manmade is orbiting the earth, and they’re filled with terror at the thought that it’s been put there by godless Commies. The film underlines the political consequences of the space race. Senator Lyndon Johnson predicted that “the Russians will be dropping bombs on us from space like kids dropping rocks on cars from freeway overpasses.” The Soviets, suddenly leaders in the space race, boasted that Sputnik would be flying over the shameful anti-desegregation showdown unfolding in Little Rock. There’s a pop-culture side to Mania as well, and a mini-drama concerning Laika, the dog who was sent up in Sputnik 2. The film’s unlikely heroes: Dwight Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev, who stood up to their respective generals’ missile envy. The result, in the US, was the creation of NASA as a civilian and not a military entity. 92 Minutes | Coolidge Corner

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