On 4 October 1957 the Soviets launched the world’s first satellite, named Sputnik I. The launching shocked much of the world, not only for its scientific importance, but also because of the implications of this technology for American and Free World security. If the Soviets had rockets to launch satellites, many concluded that they would soon be able to develop ICBMs that could reach the United States. The Soviet achievement moreover demonstrated their technological lead in this field over the United States, and began the space race. As American security was predicated on maintaining technological superiority, Sputnik terrified the nation.
President Eisenhower responded by increasing spending on missile development. In January 1958, three months after the Soviets, the United States successfully launched its own satellite, after a number of publicized failures. At this same time, the Pentagon’s feasibility studies for intercontinental missiles, including the Minuteman missile, had been completed, and planning was underway for funding and development of this American military response.
Last updated: December 19, 2017