Let’s take a look at the other side of the Atomic Age. Whereas the colors, art, design and technology (and the women…) of the era are definitely what draw myself and most others to the time period, its not all that was happening. Certainly the moniker AtomPunk itself cites a more lugubrious time, when paranoia, fear and skepticism were the normal, day to day feelings of most Americans (and Russians).
What jump-started all of these feelings? Well, one would probably say that post WWII American/Russian relations would be what started it all, but I’ll stick to the more Sci-Fi related topics and say that Sputnik 1 was the first time America really started to panic. (Hence the name of this blog).
The Sputnik crisis was a turning point of the Cold War that began on October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite. The United States had believed itself to be the world leader in space technology and thus the leader in missile development. The surprise of the Sputnik launch and the failure of the first two U.S. launch attempts proved otherwise. The shock of the Sputnik launch was so great throughout America that congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce referred to Sputnik’s beeps as “an intercontinental outer-space raspberry to a decade of American pretensions that the American way of life was a gilt-edged guarantee of our national superiority”. After this initial public shock, the Space Race began, leading up to the first human being launched in space, the Project Apollo and the moon landings in 1969.
Sputnik’s appearance rattled the United States. The people found themselves lost in a sense of fear and wonder. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the country wide shock the “Sputnik Crisis” because of the looming threat of the Soviet Union. During the cold war America was in a constant state of fear from the Soviet Union. Once they started to launch objects into space, even a satellite harmless to the US, the US went into a panic. If the USSR could launch a harmless satellite, they could also launch a nuclear warhead that would be able to travel continental distances. Less than a year after the Sputnik launch, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). The act was a four year program that poured billions of dollars into the U.S. education system. In 1953 the government invested $153 million, colleges took $10 million of that funding, however by the time 1960 came around the combined funding grew almost six fold, because of the NDEA (Layman 190).