On the morning of October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the world’s first artificial satellite named Sputnik (Russian for “travelling companion”). Weighing 184 pounds, the satellite orbited the earth at 18,000 miles per hour. The booster launching demonstrated the skill of Soviet missile science. Americans were extremely disturbed. Strategic air force units were dispersed and placed on alert, short-range Jupiter missiles were installed in Turkey and Italy, money was poured into missile and bomber programs, and achievement “gaps” were discovered in everything from missile production to classroom performance.
Secretary of State Dulles was concerned about the impact the launch would have on world affairs. He felt that “the newly emerging nations could view Russia as a people who in 1917 had been generations behind other industrialized nations but who, through harsh regimentation, had assumed first place in the race for control of outer space. They could also interpret the launching as a dramatic swing in the balance of military power toward Moscow.“
President Eisenhower, however, knew from his intelligence sources that Soviet missile forces posed little threat to the US. The purported Soviet lead in ICBMs was not real. He refused to skew the economy by dramatically increasing military spending.