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IntroductionThe Soviet Union and the United States fought together as allies during World War II and their victory over the Axis left them as the two major world powers. The two powers, however, greatly disagreed over the reformation of post-war Europe. The disagreement led to communist Russia occupying Eastern Europe, while the United States remained in Western Europe. The clashes between the communist and capitalist super powers drove the two countries into the Cold War. With the introduction of weapons of mass destruction into world politics, extreme tension and animosity arose between Russia and the United States during the Cold War. Due to many factors, including the securing of German scientists after World War II, Russia’s science program was gaining on the U.S.1This fact was little known in America, however, because the post-war feeling of nationalism left America confident of her standing as the supreme country in the world. The successful launch of the satellite SputnikI by the Russians, on October 4, 1957, followed by Sputnik II, on November 3, 1957, challenged American world supremacy. The Russian achievement in space shocked the American public. The United States had been able to sustain its position as the leader of the free world because of its economic and military technology.2The U.S. government believed that a Russian superiority in space would win the admiration of the world, and thereby undermine the prestige and leadership of the United States. Such superiority might also represent a direct military threat to U.S. security.3America feared the spread of communism due to a newfound Russian technological superiority. Consequently, the American government 1John Prados, The Soviet Estimate: U.S. Intelligence Analysis and Russian Military Strength (New York, 1982), 66-76.2Walter A. McDougall, …the Heavens and the Earth(New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1985), 7.3National Security Council, U.S. Policy on Outer Space, NSC 5814, June 20, 1958, inExploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program, ed. John Logsdon, (Washington D.C. NASA History Office, 1995), vol.1, 345-346.1
drastically sped up the United States Space program and developed the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 (NASA).4The strong American reaction to the successful launch of Sputnik I greatly influenced the importance of space in foreign and domestic politics during the Cold War.How did the Russians Surpass the U.S.?The launch of Sputnikprompted Americans to ask the question: how were the Russians able to surpass us?5The Senate Armed Forces Committee, led by Senator Lyndon Johnson, immediately began an investigation of the Russian and U.S. space programs. Beginning on November 25, 1957 and continuing until January 22, 1958, the “Inquiry into Satellite and Missile Programs” heard from experts concerning the space program. The urgency with which the inquiry proceeded was reflected in the fact that sessions often lasted from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.6The committee tried to understand how the U.S. could finish second to the Soviets. One reason Russia had surpassed America in