Public Fear and Outrage.
Many Americans reacted with disbelief and fear when the Soviet Union launched the world's first man-made satellite into orbit on 4 October 1957: the Soviets—supposedly well behind the United States technologically, militarily, and economically—had managed to beat the Americans into space. Eisenhower, often portrayed as having been caught off guard by Sputnik, noted that it came as a "distinct surprise," but what really shocked him was "the intensity of public concern." Democrats pounced on Sputnik as an issue of national defense. Democratic senator Henry Jackson of Washington described the launch as a "devastating blow to the prestige of the United States as the leader of the scientific and technical world." Some U.S. scientists who had worked for the air force or on the army's missile projects thought the feat unimpressive; still others, including celebrated rocket scientist Wernher von...
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