‘Sputnik’ House Briefing Draws Trailblazing Astronauts

Rep Rush Holt talks to Asia Brown and Rep Judy Biggert
Photo by Brian Mosley/APS Staff

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ 12th) talks to Delaware State University student Asia Brown (far right) while U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL 13th) looks on.
The launch of Sputnik more than 50 years ago served as a wake-up call for the nation as Americans confronted the reality that the U.S. was no longer considered the scientific and technical leader of the world.

The nation faces a similar clarion call today as it struggles to maintain its position as a global economic leader in the 21st century, said two former astronauts who highlighted the recent “Sputnik in the YouTube Age” briefing sponsored by the Task Force on the Future of American Innovation in conjunction with the Congressional Research and Development Caucus.

“We’re not holding our own with our competitors,” said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., the first American woman to perform a space walk and director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy at the John Glenn School of Public Affairs at Ohio State University.

Added Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel into space, “The U.S. is in danger of losing its leadership that it has held since World War II.”

After the launch of Sputnik, the U.S. was not content to sit idly by. Instead, the federal government responded boldly and swiftly, pumping huge sums of money into basic research and science and math education programs. The investment led to unprecedented economic prosperity for the nation, making the U.S. the envy of the world.

Sullivan and Jemison called for increased funding of basic research and math and science programs to help the U.S. regain its position as a global economic leader.

About 150 people, including Congress members Rush Holt (D-NJ 12th) and Judy Biggert (R-IL 13th) attended the briefing, which was held Nov. 8 at the Rayburn House Office Building.

“Research and development is our future, and it’s not just a platitude,” said Holt.

Remarked Biggert, “We’ve come a long way, but there is more work to be done.”

Also during the briefing, the task force announced the winner of its 2007 National American Video Innovation Contest, which asked participants to create videos on YouTube that demonstrated how science has changed American life.

Adan Vielma, a student at Lewis & Clark University, was named the winner, claiming the top $1,000 prize. Delaware State University students were awarded the first-runner-up prize of $300. The winning videos can be viewed at http://futureofinnovation.org/youtube.

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