Headlines after the launch of Sputnik 1 (Dickson)
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the United States competed for superiority in all aspects. The late 1950's were marked by several technological developments in constructing weapons and an arms race began to dominate the superpower rivalry. The United States was confidant that they had control over all nuclear weapons because they had recently built the hydrogen and atomic bombs, and had been very successful in World War II. However, on October 4, 1957, the Soviets destroyed this security when they launched the first satellite circling the earth called Sputnik.
Sputnik drastically changed the Cold War. The small satellite not only threatened America in the Cold War on earth, but also opened up the possibility for a Cold War in outer space. Most Americans thought that the first country in space would be technologically superior and would therefore be militarily dominant. Also, they were afraid that the country with a lead in space would have a lead in the building of missile weapons. Although it was not actually possible at the time, many Americans were worried that the Soviets could drop an atomic bomb from space. In response to these pending threats, Americans doubted their technological abilities and the power of the United States military.
The launch of the rocket carrying sputnik (Jorden)
Sputnik was the official beginning of the "space race," and technology became the most valuable weapon. The Government reacted by trying to improve America's scientific education programs, research and engineering. Following the launch of Sputnik, America's legislators attempted to protect the country's national security by establishing the National Defense Education Act, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Apollo program.