cover image The Sputnik Challenge: Eisenhower's Response to the Soviet Satellite

The Sputnik Challenge: Eisenhower's Response to the Soviet Satellite

Robert A. Divine. Oxford University Press, USA, $49.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-19-505008-0

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik , the world's first artificial satellite, on October 4, 1957, many Americans believed that this epochal Cold War event signaled dangerous weaknesses in American science, the failure of American schools and complacency in American political leadership. Most disturbing was the fear that the Soviet Union had grabbed a decisive lead in the development of long-range missiles. As Divine ( Eisenhower and the Cold War ) points out, the panicky response to Sputnik had a long-lasting effect on American life, spurring a national debate over the state of education, science, space exploration and security that lasted well into the 1960s. The principal focus of this succinct, clear-sighted study is President Dwight Eisenhower's moderate, balanced response to the Sputnik crisis. Divine analyzes the president's role in limited expansion of the U.S. missile program, acceleration of the reconnaissance-satellite effort, modest increases in federal aid to education and the creation of a civilian agency devoted to the peaceful exploration of outer space, i.e., NASA. Divine is a history professor at the University of Texas. (Apr.)