Andrew Baum (03/03/04)
For this week, I went into the class with basically the same beliefs/ thoughts that I had when I left. My views of the space race didn't change much, although it was very interesting to hear “the other side of the story.” I am not sure what triggered the Soviets to begin space exploration, and in fact, I am not even sure what lead us to begin space exploration either. Who knows whether it was because America and the Soviet Union had each heard that the other was trying to explore, and each of us wanted to be the first, or whether there was actually in interest in exploration itself. I think it is an interesting topic, though, and worth discussing further.
I wasn't sure going into the class why the Soviets were so unsuccessful with all of their missions to go to the moon, or orbit the earth, etc. Now, I think it was just carelessness on part of the engineers in an effort to beat the Americans to success. (At least some of it was) I would have been frightened to join the Soviet's space exploration team and be a human that they launch off. Although they may have taken more precautions when humans were on the spacecrafts, I would still be slightly hesitant. I was wondering whether the guests in class thought that it would have been more effective if the Americans and Soviets worked together, rather than each competing and hiding their results and improvements. Although maybe we wouldn't have gotten along anyhow and worse things would have arose. I thought it was amusing when Sergei made a comment about how their spacecraft on the moon was moving much faster than our spacecraft (Rover) on Mars. It was almost as if the race is still on.
I was surprised to hear that a major reason for why the Soviets had so much trouble with space exploration was a monetary problem. I was also interested to hear, although not surprised, that Sergei believed that had it not been for the “race,” then our technology would not have progressed as it did. I also believe this theory. It is the same concept as with a sport. If there is someone better than you, you will be able to challenge yourself and work up to their skill level, whereas if you are the top, or there is no competition at all, than it will be much harder to be motivated and to get better. Our situation was that this space race was keeping both the Soviets and the Americans motivated enough so that our technological advances progressed at an incredible speed.Overall, I enjoyed this class session and thought it very fascinating to have a first hand interaction with Sergei and Sasha. However, I think the class may have been more effective for me had we been able to break off into separate groups towards the end of the class to discuss our ideas. I feel like the “lectures” from the speakers were interesting and also necessary, but maybe it would have been better if they spoke for the first half of class, and then we were able to meet with them in smaller groups. Students could discuss ideas with each other and the speaker(s) could make “rounds” to all the individual groups. I feel that this would promote more discussion from everyone , and would be easier to ask the keynote speaker questions as well. It is just a suggestion. I look forward to next week and to our dinner with “Russian burritos!”