The Cold War was a long struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. Not only being an ideological battle, it was also a battle of technological achievement. One large part of this technological battle was the Space Race. Space was one of the few unexplored areas left and both states yearned to be the first to venture where no man has gone before.
On October 5th, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the first artificial satelite, named Sputnik into space for the purposes of orbiting around earth. To prove that this successful launch was not just a fluke, on November 3rd of the same year, Sputnik II, complete with the dog named “Laika”, was successfully sent into orbit as well.
The successes of the Soviet Union in space showed that the socialist conditions of the state, which emphasized science and math in teaching, could warrant positive results that placed the state at the forefront of the space race. Understandably the United States increased its space program as the socialists were proclaiming that this was a victory over capitalism and the United States needed to come back out on top.
The United States’ efforts to combat the Soviet Union’s achievements came in the form of the National Defense Education Act, passed in 1958, which increased spending by 5 billion dollars on higher science education and the Pentagon increased spending on missile development since there was now a threat that the Soviet Union could launch a powerful enough rocket to hit the United States.
The Space Race kicked off with quite a bang with the Soviet Union sending not one, but two satelites into orbit. Because of their actions, the Soviet Union kicked off a massive escalation of spending on military and educational efforts. While we all know what eventually happened with the Space Race and the Cold War, round one certainly belonged to the Soviets.
Stanislas Dmitriev: Virtual Matchbox Label Collection. 1999.