From Sputnik to the Solar Eclipse

Posted by Tom Axtell on

Sixty years ago, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, ushering in a new era of scientific discovery. Sputnik I was an impressive technological advancement that also triggered anxiety and fear over a perceived technology gap between the United States and the Soviet Union. In response, President Eisenhower convinced Congress to pass the National Defense Education Act (NDEA) less than one year later, providing the funding that fueled the space race and eventually landed the first human on the moon. The NDEA also included funding to increase science and technology education, foreign language, and world history and culture courses as a vital component of our national security and economic competitiveness. The act provided the first federal funding for the use of educational television as an instructional medium.

A decade later, in September 1968, Vegas PBS partnered with the Clark County School District’s Vocational Technical High School to produce and broadcast six hours a day of live instruction in math, science and foreign languages. The national and local educational television courses were a success, and led to the public-private partnership we now call public television.

Now in its 44th season, NOVA is the most-watched primetime science series on American television. This month, NOVA will capture the extraordinary total solar eclipse over North America. On Monday, August 21, Southern Nevada will be able to watch a partial solar eclipse during the morning hours, but can experience the complete cosmic event in NOVA: Eclipse Over America at 9 p.m. on Vegas PBS Channel 10. NOVA will incorporate immersive CGI animation and integrate stunning sequences of the eclipse itself from iconic locations along its path.

Also in August, viewers can travel to some of the planet’s most remote locations in Flying to the Ends of the Earth, follow the Rosetta spacecraft as it attempts to land on a comet in To Catch a Comet, retrace NASA’s epic Voyager missions in The Farthest Voyager in Space and follow an astronaut’s life from pre-training to life on board the space station in How to Build an Astronaut. We hope you’ll enjoy the tremendous science exploration programs on Vegas PBS throughout the month.

Eisenhower desired a universally accessible service that stimulated young people to study science, math and technology and helped Americans understand the complex world cultures we would encounter through both trade and competition. To a degree he never imagined, PBS programming fulfills his vision for a great nation that has effective national security, continuing technological advancement and cultural understanding. We thank you for your generous financial support that ensures public television is available to everyone in Southern Nevada and educational television is in every classroom.

Thank you for supporting Vegas PBS.

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