The competition between the US and USSR was not just limited to Earth. In 1957, the superpowers began a space race. The Soviet Union stunned the world by launching the world’s first satellite into space. They sent Sputnik into orbit and around the earth in 1957, where it remained in space until 1958. American scientists raced to launch a satellite themselves. Congress set aside billions of dollars for space research. Once both the Soviet Union and the United States had launched their own satellites into space, the race to send a man into space began. In 1961, the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into space to orbit the earth. The Americans lagged behind because the rockets that carried US satellites were smaller and less powerful. Despite this, in 1961 President Kennedy pledged to put an American on the moon by the end of the decade. The early Soviet lead in the space race disappeared, as American scientists and engineers found ways to improve rocket design, construction and testing.