- Sputnik crisis
The Sputnik crisis was a turning point of the
Cold Warthat began on October 4, 1957when the Soviet Unionlaunched the Sputnik 1satellite. The United Stateshad believed itself to be the world leader in spacetechnology and thus the leader in missile development. The surprise Sputnik launch and the failure of the first two U.S. launch attempts proved otherwise. The shock of the Sputnik launch was so great throughout America that even congresswoman Clare Boothe Lucecommented 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 gilt-edged guarantee of our national superiority". After this initial shock, the Space Racebegan, leading up to Project Apolloand the moonlandings 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 Agencyor DARPA.
July 29, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhowerformally brought the U.S. into the Space Race by signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act, creating NASAand 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 Foundationappropriation 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 managementas an area of inquiry and an object of much scrutiny, leading up to the modern concept of projectmanagement and standardized project models such as the DoD " Program Evaluation and Review Technique", PERT, invented for Polaris.
*The decision by President
John F. 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.
* Roger D. Launius: [http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/sputorig.html Sputnik and the Origins of the Space Age] , nasa.gov
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