Background: Sputnik was a Russian satellite, which also happened to be the first satellite to ever make it to space. Sputnik was 285cm long (112inches) it was 58cm (23 inches) in diameter and weighed 83.6kg (184lb). Sputnik circled the earth every 96.2 minutes until early 1958, when it had blown up in the atmosphere.
Event: The Soviets launched Sputnik on October 5, 1957, showing the Americans that they were serious about launching a satellite to orbit around the Earth. In addition, this proved that the soviets could launch a satellite into space but it also gave them the capability of launching a rocket carrying nuclear warheads. This caused Americans to be fearful of the Soviets not only because they were ahead of the US in the space race with the development of the first successful satellite, but now the United States faced the treat of a nuclear attack.
Results: Therefore with the United States being behind in the space race, they knew they had some catching up to do. At first the US tried to launch a satellite on December 6, 1957, but it was yet another embarrassment for them when it had failed to even get 10 feet off the ground. The US tried again in January 1958 and was successful in finally getting their first satellite to orbit earth known as Explorer. Americans still thought that the US needed to improve their space programs. As for that, President Eisenhower created a new space program called, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with the hopes of having more success.
Burgan, Michael. The Treats. Austin, TX: Raintree Streck~Vaughn, 2001. Print. Cold War. "Sputnik 1 - Milestones of Flight." Sputnik 1 - Milestones of Flight. National Air and Space Museum, n.d. Web. 02 May 2013.