The October 4, 1957 announcement by Tass, the Soviet Union news agency, of the successful launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 had caused a great deal of shock to the American people. Proud of their technological prowess, the news had a ‘Pearl Harbor’ effect on public sentiment. However, notwithstanding all the criticism of the Eisenhower administration, there was also a long-term positive impact. The Sputnik launch spurred a determination in the American leadership to become a world leader in military technology.
One of the first steps undertaken by the US government was the establishment of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in February 1958. According to its website, DARPA works on the principle that the US should be “the initiator and not the victim of strategic technological surprises”, and it “explicitly reaches for transformational change instead of incremental advances”.