During World War II, rapid scientific and technological advances helped win the war. These advances, such as nuclear power, had the potential to both benefit and harm society. In general though many people were excited about the possibilities these new ideas seemed to create.
- In 1961, a Russian cosmonaut orbited around the earth. The U.S. scrambled to catch up with the Soviet Union’s space program, sending John Glenn, Jr. into space in 1962. On July 20, 1969, Apollo astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. made history when they walked on the moon. Over 600 million people around the world watched the lunar landing on television.
- Nuclear power was used to create the atomic bomb and could also be used to make other devastating nuclear weapons. This same power could provide inexpensive electricity. The first nuclear electric plant opened in Shippenport, Pennsylvania.
- Computers took over the jobs many people previously did. For example, in factories, computers could run the machines that assembled cars. These technologies allowed products to be made more quickly and cheaply, but they forced thousands of people to find new jobs.
- New technologies changed the way food is produced. New packaged convenience foods, such as frozen meals or cake mixes, became popular. More than half the foods available in 1970 did not even exist in 1950, according to the Children’s Encyclopedia of American History by David C. King. Farming even changed. Instead of small, family-owned farms, most farms were and are owned by large corporations. These farms rely on large, specialized equipment, fertilizers, insecticides, and hybrid seeds to produce reliable and consistent crops.
- Lunar: related to the moon
- Convenience food: a food that is already prepared and can be reheated quickly
- Specialized: something that has a specific, limited purpose
Questions and Answers
Question: Were Americans afraid of the new technologies?
Answer: Most people felt excited and enthused by technological advances, similar to the excitement and energy people felt during the Industrial Revolution. Similar to the shock and disappointment people felt after the sinking of the Titanic, though, we have since learned that technology has its limitations.
Visit NASA to see photos of the first moon landing.
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Tobin, Declan. (2020). American Achievements During the 20th Century - Educational Facts. American History for Kids. Retrieved from https://www.americanhistoryforkids.com/man-moon-achievements/