10-Paragraph Essay

The Space Race and Paragraphs

On Friday, October 4, 1957, the U.S.S.R. launched Sputnik 1 into a shallow Earth orbit. Almost immediately, ham radio operators across the U.S. were listening to the “beep beep beep” sounds transmitted from the satellite as it raced through space. William Brilling was one of those operators who lived in Huntsville, Alabama and worked on the staff of Dr. Wernher von Braun at Redstone Arsenal. During Sputnik, the Brilling home served as radio central for hamsters like Bill Brilling and his wife Mary, daughters Elizabeth and Patricia, and son Jim. Dr. von Braun even attended and talked about his Orbiter satellite that could surpass Sputnik.

At the time of Sputnik, Reader’s Digest was one of the most popular monthly magazines. On the Monday following the Sputnik launch, the editors at the Digest convened a regularly scheduled meeting to map out the stories for future publications. Of course, the topic on every tongue at the table was Sputnik, and the conversation soon turned to how the magazine should handle the situation. A young editor named Andy Foster wrestled the attention of the conservative legion and asked, “What do high school students across America think about Sputnik?” The editors told Foster to publish the announcement for the article in the October edition.

Sputnik was still beeping when Mary Brilling grabbed the Reader’s Digest out of the mailbox. Rumors from the stream of friends listening for the beeps in the Brilling garage predicted that the last beeps would be heard over the weekend. Meanwhile, Mary read that the Digest was looking for paragraphs written by high school students that answered the question, “What do you think about Sputnik?” As an English teacher from Huntsville High School, Mary vowed that her students would accept the assignment, especially since many parents worked at Redstone Arsenal. Her students wrote the paragraphs before Sputnik 1 stopped transmitting on Saturday, October 26, 1957.

On Sunday, November 3, 1957, Sputnik 2 was launched carrying the first space dog, Laika. After Sputnik 1, the government chose the Navy’s Vanguard project to place a satellite in orbit since it used civilian rockets rather than military missiles. The Army proposed to use a Redstone rocket to launch a satellite that would be developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. After Sputnik 2, the Eisenhower administration unleashed the Army to forge its own launch path, which caused the project to switch to an available satellite. On November 8, 1957, Dr von Braun and his Project Orbiter joined the space race.

While America was transfixed by Laika, Reader’s Digest was receiving mail from all over America. The envelopes with “Sputnik” written on them were funneled to Foster, who noticed that many of the letters had a return address from Huntsville, Alabama. Before opening the first letter, Foster looked in an almanac and discovered that Huntsville, Alabama, was located next to Redstone Arsenal, a U.S. Army base. When Foster shared the strong Alabama reaction to Sputnik at an editors’ meeting, they responded by moving the Sputnik article to the January 1958 edition. The editors told Foster to publish the announcement for the article in the November edition.

On Friday, December 6, 1957, at Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Vanguard rocket exploded after launch. The shocking disaster was felt across America, but the city hit the hardest was Titusville, Florida, located just miles from the Vanguard Launch Pad 18A. Mrs. April Jones, a science teacher at Titusville High School, was watching the classroom TV with her students and fellow teachers when the explosion happened. To channel the students’ frustration, Mrs. Jones gave them an assignment to write a paragraph that described what the explosion meant to the space race. The envelopes containing the paragraphs were mailed to Reader’s Digest before the Christmas break started.

Andy Foster was certain that the editors at Reader’s Digest would love the Sputnik article. In November, Foster read hundreds of paragraphs describing the Sputnik launch as a call to action, with the majority of paragraphs coming from Huntsville, Alabama. In December, Foster detected a dark turn in the paragraphs after the Vanguard explosion, especially the paragraphs written by the students from Titusville High School. Foster had chosen twenty of the best paragraphs for a standalone article, but the editors balked at giving the younger generation such a grand stage. Two Sputnik paragraphs were included in the “Life in These United States” January 1958 edition.


I can’t see Sputnik, but I know it’s up there because of the beeps I hear coming from my Dad’s ham radio. I listen to Sputnik with my Dad when I get home from school. He hasn’t been going to work like usual, but a lot of the people he works with came by and talked in the garage when the beeping stopped. I’ve been told that if the beeps stop for over a day, then Sputnik’s radio doesn’t work. That means Sputnik might crash into America like a meteor. It’s Bob O’clock with Bobby Sox, so I need to sign off. Elizabeth Brilling.

The Explosion

I believe space is calling us to join the universe, but we aren’t going to get there any time soon because the Vanguard rocket blew up today. I have a friend who lives in South Titusville, and I bet his house is all shook up. I watched the explosion on TV in the middle of class until the teacher turned it off. AM radio is great, but TV is the future and I hope to get a job at a TV station soon. Cameras are getting better all the time, and traveling to different cities seems like the thing to do. Thomas Linkletter.

On Friday, January 31, 1958, the U.S. launched Explorer 1 into a medium Earth orbit. The satellite was a remnant of Dr. Wernher von Braun’s Project Orbiter after being renamed Project Explorer and moved from Huntsville, Alabama, to Pasadena, California. The development of the rocket remained at Redstone Arsenal, with the U.S. Army changing the Jupiter-C into Juno 1, which could carry a satellite payload. The pride that resulted from the launch of Explorer 1 was evident in the faces of everyday Americans, especially in Huntsville, Alabama, and Titusville, Florida. 4188 days after Explorer 1, on July 20, 1969, Apollo 1 landed on the moon.


Sputnik 1, Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Retrieved 10 January 2024, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_1.

Sputnik 1, Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Retrieved 10 January 2024, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_2.

Explorer 1, Wikipedia contributors, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Retrieved 10 January 2024, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explorer_1.

Celebrating 65 Years of the Army in space: The launch of EXPLORER I, Dr. Kaylene Hughes, AMCOM History Office, Retrieved 10 January 2024, from https://www.army.mil/article/263448/celebrating_65_years_of_the_army_in_space_the_launch_of_explorer_i