Re: Times have certainly changed
While unquestionably true, what you say has no bearing on my comment. You might as well disallow comparisons between a Motorola 3000 and a Galaxy S5. Of course technology changes rapidly, but it is still instuctive to think about how things are different from what went before.
This is certainly such an example of this. For the US the issue wan't what we wanted to orbit, it was loft capacity. Vanguard 1, for instance, only weighed a few pounds, and didn't included a vast array of scientific ge-gaws for the simple reason that it would have splashed into the Atlantic if they had tried to orbit anything remotely like a modern research satellite. It housed a temperature sensorr and couple of VERY low powered radios, including one powered by the first solar cells on a deployed satellite, and we were happy to be able to get even that much on orbit. The Soviets had bigger launch vehicles at the time, and ccould get a lot bigger payload on orbit, but we needed to have at least a credible also-ran in the early 'space race.' The Reds included, in general, more functions in their early satellites beacuse thay could launch more mass than we could, though that situation would change over the next decade.
I suppose you could say that 'if only they had a Saturn V bootster...' but a deus ex machina argument like that voids the lessons of the comparison.