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Cartoons of the ‘Red Moon’

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Continuing his series on how cartoonists have seen events great and small, Mark Bryant looks at the impact of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth orbit and a Soviet triumph in the Cold War.

New technology has always been a godsend to cartoonists. From bicycles, railways, motorcars, submarines and aeroplanes to washing-machines, cinema, television, telephones and computers they have generated endless fresh possibilities for humour and satire. However, fifty years ago this month one event excited more interest than most – amongst cartoonists as well as the rest of the world’s population. This was the successful launch, at the height of the Cold War between the USSR and the West, of the first ever artificial Earth satellite. Dubbed the ‘Red Moon’ by the American media, it was a wake-up call for the United States which suddenly realized it had fallen behind the Communists in scientific progress and that the Space Age had begun without them. The small metal object, which had dented their pride and led many of their citizens to fear that a nuclear attack was imminent, was Sputnik.

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