President Obama's characterization of this time in American history as "our generation's Sputnik moment" was a call to action for the sympathetic media to enlighten the incredulous public about the true meaning of the Sputnik allegory. Experts have been interviewed, angles worked, and metaphorical shovels swung - throwing our way lumps of relevant historical rubble. But they mostly just scratched the surface; no one dared dig all the way to the bottom of the Sputnik phenomenon.
So we pulled some strings in the Motherland and arranged an interview with Comrade Khrush, who witnessed the launching of Sputnik while working with the Soviet Space Program as the official dog catcher, supplying canines to test the safety of space exploration before sending humans into orbit.
"Is this America's Sputnik moment, you ask? Depends on the Sputnik," Comrade Khrush poured himself a Kalashnikov vodka and offered us a glass. "You see comrade... there was Sputnik-1 that made Americans paranoid in 1957, but a month later we also launched the Sputnik-2 with a little doggie on board, named Laika. She wasn't meant to come back. The poor little psina sacrificed herself for the glory of the state in exchange for a few guaranteed meals. So your Comrade Obama should have been more specific, da? Sputnik-2 is obviously what he meant, because this is America's Laika-the-Space-Dog moment."
Reaching for the bottle again, Comrade Khrush explained, "For this to be a Sputnik-1 moment, there must also exist an aggressive superpower that has built secret research cities populated with privileged scientists, many of them pulled straight out of the gulag and told that failure to launch means going back to Siberia faster than they can say Sputnik. In the end, that superpower must successfully send a beeping ham radio into orbit and go broke in the process. This is Sputnik-1, da?"
"But that superpower is no more. Where are today's state-run secret laboratories filled with privileged scientists? They're now in America - the so-called global warming or alternative energy research centers, working on some pie-in-the-sky projects that are modern-day equivalents of the glorious Sputnik - and bankrupting America in the process. Tell me, has America switched sides and became the new Soviet Union? If this is so, it is definitely repeating the Motherland's Sputnik moment - when the government designed a pie in the sky project and the people starved while building it. Let's call it a pie-in-the-sky moment, da?"
"Why does your Obama want Americans to regress psychologically to the beginning of the Cold War? Is he hoping to change things by making you relive this history with a different outcome? But the only alternative outcome in the Cold War is America's defeat. Have your people gone blind? Not that I care much about the USA, but it's a shame to see all this wealth wasted.... Idiotstvo. The previous generations worked hard to build it. At least we in USSR were never wealthy to begin with..."
Comrade Khrush took a deep swig of vodka and continued with a solemn remorse, "Poor doggie. I caught her in the street and named her Laika. I used to supply dogs for flights in experimental ballistic missiles that had special cabins. They all had a parachute installed for landing. In Sputnik-2 the cabin was the same, but there was no parachute."
"Our leaders wanted to put on a big show," he continued. "Laika was launched on the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The Party deadline gave us little time to create a real life-support system or protection from the heat. The state-run media reported on Laika's glorious voyage and safe return. But the truth is, she lasted only four days in orbit. She died from overheating, two days ahead of scheduled end of battery life. Sputnik-2 continued to circle the Earth for six more months, with all systems dead, until it went down and burned up in the atmosphere."
As Comrade Khrush took a deep drink and stared into space his eyes began to glisten, and then he said, "And now Americans are boarding a flying vessel that has no landing gear or a parachute. Clearly a Sputnik-2 moment. Comrade Obama is sending America on a one-way trip it won't survive. The media will report it as a glowing success story, while everyone with a bit of common sense will know it's a big show that will bankrupt your nation. Even with all systems dead, the country will continue to run its course for some time, until it loses momentum and burns on reentry."
"Yes, it's what happened to USSR and now it's your turn - unless America stops acting like a docile stray puppy that allowed her handlers to use her as a pawn in state propaganda, trading her freedom for free bones and a kennel."
With a sigh, Comrade Khrush kicked the empty vodka bottle to the side, pulled down his Ushanka tight, and climbed into the back seat of a black chauffeured limo with the Roscosmos logo. Ever since NASA shut down its manned flight programs and focused on global warming, he made a fortune marketing Russian space tours to American billionaires, supplying passengers to the Russian Federal Space Agency.
"It's not much different from being a dog catcher, only it pays better," he told us before shutting the door. Then he rolled down the tinted window and gave us his last piece of advice: "Never board a flying vessel that has no landing gear or a parachute."
We watched him go as the limo merged in with traffic on New York's Central Park West, where Comrade Khrush owns an apartment. We were lucky to catch him - he only lives there six months a year to avoid paying exorbitant New York taxes.
And also some bonus material:
A beet in every pot! A Sputnik for every head!
President Obama's Sputnik Moment #7
President Obama's Sputnik Moment #9
This is very difficult to quantify. How many less than successful attempts were made to orbit anything before one made it?
This information is still highly classified! Russian space vehicles always work the first time, right?
Fully clear? Comrade Царевна?
Hmmmmm...sigh...I'll have to keep an eye on you two.
Now, Beck, Beck,Beck, Beck, Beck to zie shovlen worken oder zie gulag will aus senden vor Sie!
Do not worry about the thought criminal Beck. Only the crazy people listen to him anyway.
Genosse Kaputnik, nicht etwa der Gedanke kriminellen Beck Sorgen. Nur die verrückte Leute hören ihn trotzdem.