The Sputnik crisis was the American reaction to the success of the Sputnik program. It was a key Cold War event that began on October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial Earth satellite.
The launch of Sputnik I and the failure of its first two Project Vanguard launch attempts rattled the American public; President Dwight D. Eisenhower referred to it as the â€œSputnik Crisisâ€. Although Sputnik was itself harmless, its orbiting greatly accentuated the continual threat the United States had perceived from the Soviet Union since the Cold War began after World War II. The same rocket that launched Sputnik could send a nuclear warhead anywhere in the world in a matter of minutes, breaching the oceanic moat that had successfully protected the continental United States from attack during both World Wars. The Soviets had demonstrated this capability on August 21 with a successful 6,000 km test flight of the R-7 booster; TASS announced it five days later and the event was widely reported in Aviation Week and other media.
Less than a year after the Sputnik launch, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). The act was a four-year program that poured billions of dollars into the U.S. education system. In 1953 the government spent 3 million, and colleges took million of that funding; however, by 1960 the combined funding grew almost sixfold because of the NDEA.
After the initial public shock, the Space Race began, leading to the first human launched into space, Project Apollo and the first humans to land on the Moon in 1969.