The KITP Public Lecture Series
Citizen-Scientists and the Dawn of the Space Age
sponsored by Friends of KITP
Fifty years ago, Sputnik's launch started the Space Age. Teams of citizen-scientists, including teenagers, teachers, and long-time amateur astronomers, scanned the night sky in hopes of spotting it. As members of Moonwatch, a program initiated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in 1956, these amateur scientists contributed to what became the twentieth century's grandest science project. Largely forgotten today, Moonwatchers played a crucial role at the start of the Space Age. McCray places their story within the context of 1950s Cold War culture and suggests how the public's passion for science might be stimulated once again.