Sputnik in Two Differing Perspectives

One of the most desired realms the human race have always wanted to obtain an inhabit is the ominous, unknown world called space. Many times in both literature and entertainment, people have shown their desire in colonizing and roaming the lands of outer space; such examples include the films The Martian and Interstellar. In the astronomical history of mankind there were several feats accomplished such as the launch of the Russian man-made satellite called Sputnik. In two passages there are two authors who differ in their description of Sputnik, purpose of outer space, and the message the authors are attempting to convey; and this was conveyed through the use of specific stylistic and rhetorical differences.

Words and diction in general have a significant impact on how the audience views the given subject. In the first passage, sentimentality and outlook were emphasized in order to express to the readers that perhaps this desire will bring humanity to desolation. “An earth-born object made by man…” (line 1, passage 1) conveys the feeling that the Sputnik itself was created with the gift of life, and that Sputnik was a living being birthed by mankind. Yet along with this life, the author of Passage 1 describes that Sputnik was “made by man” (line 1, passage 1). This emphasis contrasts against the vividness of the satellite. Thus giving off an impression that although the Sputnik was created from all the passions and desires of the human race, that Sputnik’s aspirations from humanity leads to imminent and inevitable failure. This description from the author of passage 1 contrasts greatly with that of the author of the second passage. While the first passage attempts to convey the sentimentality of Sputnik in general, the second passage states the historical facts about Sputnik’s launch. The Sputnik was “a 184-pound sphere carrying a radio transmitter, enough batteries to run it for about two weeks, and four car-radio-style antennas” (line 2-5, passage 2); using straightforward, punctual, and factual description, the author of the second passage described the mechanical features of Sputnik, and that idea contradicts against the romantic description of Sputnik from Passage 1.

The notion implied from the first passage reveals the belief that mankind’s attempts and ambitions to colonize outer space is one that would lead to impending failure, and all efforts would be futile. “…the man-made satellite was no moon or star, no heavenly body which could follow its circling path for a timespan that to us mortals, bound by earthly time, lasts from eternity to eternity.” (line 6-10, passage 1) and also that ”the funeral obelisk [stated that] ‘Mankind will not remain bound to the earth forever.’” (line 33-35, passage 1). With this diction, the author of passage 1 is implying that even with all the aspirations and efforts mankind puts into exploring space, that humanity will dig itself a grave. Quite literally in the example in which the satellite cannot be a “heavenly body” and that mankind leads to desolation. on the funeral obelisk, the use of the word ‘funeral obelisk’ in description conveys the idea that perhaps the concept that Russian scientist believed in was slowly and gradually disappearing; thus relating to how astronomical advances brings the death or destruction of humanity closer. And in the second passage, it states that outer space is one of the many ‘objects’ humanity owns and that for this reason, mankind can do whatever they choose to do so such as for “peaceful purposes” (line 38, passage 2) to “[an area in which] missiles of war [can be sent]” (line 38-39, passage 2). Ergo passage 1 conveys the idea that space is not some tool we can control, and it has many unknowns. And the second passage goes against that idea, stating that space was meant to be controlled and used by man, and that we could use space however we deemed fit.

The overall use of syntax and diction throughout both passages clearly expresses the different purposes the author of each passage is attempting to convey. In passage 1, the author uses a variety of humane, romantic words like”earth-born” (line 1, passage 1), “heavenly body” (line 7, passage 1), and the phrase “it was not pride or awe…when they looked up from the earth toward the skies…[they had felt] relief about the first ‘step toward escape from men’s imprisonment to the earth’” (line 21-28, passage 1) These descriptions were intended to strike the audience in a way that caused them to perceive and interpret the positive and negative consequences about astronomical advances like the launch of Sputnik. Compared to the ‘cold’, scientific use of syntax and diction for the second passage, that passage’s purpose was to state the actions that occurred during and after the launch of Sputnik. And with these reactions, the author concluded that perhaps with more advanced technology and astronomical experience, humanity as a whole can begin to inhabit and colonize other planets. Thus the contrasting differences between the two passage conveys the ulterior purposes of the reason for the passages in the first place.

Therefore through the use of syntax and diction by each individual author, there was a difference in the descriptions of Sputnik, the purpose of outer space, and the overall meanings of each passage.

Sputnik was mankind’s first satellite launched into space during the period of time called the Cold War, where the USSR competed against the US for technological advancements. What do you think is more important: the advancement of humanity as a whole? Or the advancement of one’s own country?

What do you think?


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