By 1957, the United States’ research preparing for space flight had reached the testing phase. On the political stage, the United States and Soviet Union were engaged in the Cold War—a conflict involving military coalitions, espionage, propaganda, and the nuclear arms race.
When the United States announced their goal of launching a satellite into space, the Soviet Union expanded the Cold War into space by announcing that they were also launching a satellite several months sooner than the US. Their competition was dubbed the Space Race.
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik I in October, 1957. The following February, the United States successfully launched Explorer I. The loss of the first race into space led Congress to establish the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be responsible for the United States’ space program. The United States also passed the National Defense Education Act which allocated billions of dollars for American education to improve education to prepare students for the Space Age.
Tomorrow, The First Passengers into Space Rita Bay