Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Sputnik crisis was a turning point of the Cold War that began on October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite. The USA had believed itself to be the leader of space technology and thus a leader of missile development. The surprise Sputnik launch and the failure of the first two U.S. launch attempts proved it was not so. After this, the Space Race began, leading up to Project Apollo and the moon landings in 1969, which eventually ended the Sputnik crisis.
The Sputnik crisis spurred a whole chain of U.S. initiatives, from large to small, many of them initiated by the Department of Defense.
- Within 2 days, calculation of the Sputnik Orbit (joint work by UIUC Astronomy Dept. and Digital Computer Lab.)
- Entering Space Race, as mentioned, including the creation of NASA in 1958 and Project Mercury.
- Education programs initiated to foster a new generation of engineers. One of the more remarkable and remembered things that came out of this was the concept of "New Math".
- Dramatically increased support for scientific research. For 1959, Congress increased the National Science Foundation appropriation to $134 million, almost $100 million higher than the year before. By 1968, the NSF budget would stand at nearly $500 million.
- The Polaris missile program.
- Project management as an area of inquiry and an object of much scrutiny, leading up to the modern concept of project management and standardized project models such as the DoD Program Evaluation and Review Technique, PERT, invented for Polaris.
- The decision by President Kennedy, who campaigned in 1960 on closing "the missile gap," to deploy 1000 Minuteman missiles, far more ICBMs than the Soviets had at the time.
- At The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency initiating, in 1969, a computer network project called ARPANET, which would later turn into the Internet.
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