Learn more about Sputnik crisis
The Sputnik crisis was a turning point of the Cold War that began on October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite. The USA had believed itself to be the leader in missile development and thus the leader in space technology. The surprise Sputnik launch and the failure of the first two U.S. launch attempts proved this was not so. The shock of the Sputnik launch was so great throughout America that even congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce commented on the launch, referring to Sputnik's beeps as "an intercontinental outer-space raspberry to a decade of American pretensions that the American way of life was a giltedged guarantee of our national superiority." After this initial shock, the Space Race began, leading up to Project Apollo and the moon landings in 1969.
The Sputnik crisis spurred a whole chain of U.S. initiatives, from large to small, many of them initiated by the Department of Defense.
- Within 2 days, calculation of the Sputnik Orbit (joint work by UIUC Astronomy Dept. and Digital Computer Lab.)
- By February 1958, the political and defense communities had recognized the need for a high-level Department of Defense organization to execute R&D projects and created the Advanced Research Projects Agency, which later became the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.
- On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower formally brought the U.S. into the Space Race by signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act, creating NASA and later Project Mercury.
- Education programs initiated to foster a new generation of engineers. One of the more remarkable and remembered things that came out of this was the concept of "New Math".
- Dramatically increased support for scientific research. For 1959, Congress increased the National Science Foundation appropriation to $134 million, almost $100 million higher than the year before. By 1968, the NSF budget would stand at nearly $500 million.
- The Polaris missile program.
- Project management as an area of inquiry and an object of much scrutiny, leading up to the modern concept of project management and standardized project models such as the DoD Program Evaluation and Review Technique, PERT, invented for Polaris.
- The decision by President Kennedy, who campaigned in 1960 on closing the "missile gap", to deploy 1000 Minuteman missiles, far more ICBMs than the Soviets had at the time.