The media is a powerful tool for distribution of information. As the mouth piece of society, the fourth estate is responsible for ensuring that the audience is kept abreast of happenings in the society. This has enabled the media to possess the power of agenda setting across the globe, dictating the nature of developments in the society. Usually, the media dictates the development of ideas and innovations by highlighting the benefits of such developments. To this end, the media can be applauded for its beneficence to the society, in not only conveying messages to geographically dispersed audience but also prompting action and intervention through opinion formation and reinforcement of issues that need these. Space technology is one aspect of human development that has benefited immensely from media focus in Science and technology. Having emerged just in the 1950s, media coverage and analysis led to many countries considering implementing this technology. While the development of space science might have been encouraged by global hegemonic and war strategies, the media played a bigger role in creating awareness about the technology.
From time immemorial, journalism has been cited as one of the sources of inspiration in the societies. The inspirations come from the fact that journalists help drive specific agendas in the society. Technology-wise, the inspirations of the media can be seen from the manner in which they have taken advantage of wars and made reports and analysis that prompted the adoption of certain war technologies into civil use. After the First World War, the advent of industrialization ushered countries to a new approach of winning economic competence. The civilized European powers and United States of America engaged on economic propulsion and scientific discoveries, which led to development of mass destruction weapons and fast warships as each country funded weaponry manufacturers and scientists. While there are many technological development that have emerged from war and which have been adopted for civil use, space technology stand out as one of the post-second war technologies that has been shaped through journalism.
At the height of the cold war in 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first ever satellite. The satellite was named Sputnik. Sputnik was designed to orbit the earth and send sensitive intelligence information to the Soviets. The Sputnik was small in size, almost the size of a beach ball, and was not able to send meaningful information back to the earth. However, the launch of the Sputnik had a profound impact on the priorities of citizens and governments around the world (McQuaid, 2007). The Soviet engineers who developed the Sputnik wanted to ensure that the satellite could be seen and heard by people from all parts of the world. While Sputnik was intended to improve communication by the soviets, it has a ripple effect that saw many nations developing and launching their own satellites.
The space age was ushered in by the cold war era. However, the media spurred it through reporting and analysis about the tussled between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Sputnik made space exploration possible and prompted the United States to embrace the technology. During the cold war, the soviets and the United States engaging in a way that was less physical but was more about threats and threat-making (Komska, 2011). Given that the soviets had been the first to come up with the idea of space crafts, the united states was obligated to follow , and probably make it better. Thus with the launch of the Sputnik, the United States and the Soviet Union entered into a new race of space technology. The reports by the media on the space capabilities of each side led to the drive for nations to develop their space capacities. Hence the crucial beginning of Space Journalism in Media practice.
One of the ways through which journalists were involved in the space development was through reporting the space technological developments in various countries. During the initial stages of space science, the focus was mainly on the United States and the Soviet Union. With the two countries competing for global supremacy, the media in each country ensured that they reported any new developments or intelligence leaks about impending space technological developments by the “enemy” country (PBS, 2009). For example, the reaction of the United States towards Sputnik was to develop their own space technology to counter the Soviets. The Sputnik was considered an ‘enemy satellite’ (Shreve, 2003). This meant the United States had to do something to counter the threat of the enemy. To counter the soviets, the United States initiated several space programs that would develop much stronger satellites. The concern at the time was that the soviets had their satellites over the airspace of the United States and there was nothing that the United States could do about it. The United States believed that the soviets were able to get vital information about the United States that would enable them to launch nuclear bombs against the United States. However, what the United States failed to realize at the time was that since the soviets had rockets powerful enough to send a spacecraft into the space, they were able to launch a nuclear bomb against the United States at will.
The media hype about the space technologies and the capabilities of the satellites coupled with the cold war objectives led the United States to create the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). However, the initial attempts by the United States to launch satellites into the space ended up in spectacular explosions with journalists taking an active role in the discussions before and after the attempts. Soon, however, the government realized the need for building space capsules, rockets and satellites (Frederick, 2011). Besides, the need to hire astronauts to become spacemen emerged.
Ultimately, the space development turned into some kind of contest with journalists reporting on every new development. For American journalists, the driving factor was that the Soviets were wining the space battle. Advancements in technology and space explorations that we see today can be attributed to the attempts by the United States to catch up with the Soviet Union during the space age. The space race altered the educational system and the imagination of individuals in Nebraska and other regions of the United States. Shortly after the soviets had lunched the Sputnik, American journalists begun calling on the American education system to put more emphasis on science and math. This led to the government of United States pumping more money to enable schools and educators focus on math and science (Geppert, 2012). This means most students enrolled in math and science courses.
The greatest highlight of the space age is arguably the Apollo programs by the United States. With the Soviets having become the first nation to send a satellite into space, the United States was determined to become the first nation to send a human being to the space. Thus the most famous outcome of the Apollo programs was the Apollo 11 . The Apollo 11 was the spacecraft that carried the first human beings to the moon, astronauts Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin, in 1969 (PBS, 2009). This was followed by a number of other space explorations to the moon, most of which were under the same Apollo program. The main aim of the American space explorations during the cold war was to study the planets and their satellites. Eventually, space explorations became influential in providing information about the solar system, and the earth in particular (The cold war Museum, 2010). Over the recent times, the most historic space event is the establishments of the Hubble Space Telescope which gave scientists the ability to get more insights into the solar system.