Historiographical Essay - A Historical Recounting of the...

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A Historical Recounting of the Reaction towardsSputnikI & IIWorld War II left the United States and Russia as the two major world powers,and not coincidentally also as intense enemies. During the Cold War, there was extremetension and animosity between Russia and the United States. Through the great sense ofnationalism gained from their victory in World War II, the American public considereditself as the one supreme power in the world. They did not want any country, especiallyRussia, encroach on this claim. The launching ofSputnikI on October 4, 1957 followedbySputnikII on November 3, 1957 by the Russians into space questioned Americanworld supremacy. The American people were shocked bySputnikI. The reaction toSputnikI resulted in a fear for national security, which American society had not hadsince World War II.The American government was also caught off guard by the sudden launch. Thegovernment, under President Dwight Eisenhower, quickly developed the President’sScience Advisory Committee (PSAC), the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958(NASA), and the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). The US governmentassumed that potential Russian supremacy in space not only could become a directmilitary threat towards American national security, but that it would undermine theprestige and leadership the United States held throughout the world. The United Statesfeared that continued Russian dominance in space over the Free World would result in anewfound admiration towards the Soviet Union and, perhaps, the spread of communism.
SputnikI led to the United States allocating funds and research towards their spaceprogram, which would ultimately result in the race for the moon.During the past fifty years since the successful launch ofSputnikI and II, manyhistorians and scientist have investigated the initial reaction towards the satellite and itssignificance in kick-starting the space program in the United States and in the world. In1983 the Smithsonian Institute released the book The First 25 Years in Spacecontaininga group of essays by multiple scientists and professors examining and evaluating the first

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Term
Fall
Professor
Kinzer

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