The space program’s roots can be traced to Operation Paperclip, when American officials sought to import German rocketry and telemetry specialists to the United States during the waning hours of World War II. The Army Space Program and the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) were founded to conduct research and development on very high altitude, intercontinental and space-based military applications. Headquartered at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, these agencies were created to compete directly with Soviet ballistic missile research. When the Russian Sputnik 1—Sputnik is Russian for satellite—shocked the world and achieved low Earth orbit on 4 October 1957, American scientists were caught looking. The Army Space Program redoubled its efforts to claim this new, extra-atmospheric high ground.
A Sputnik replica on display. The Soviets claimed the first victory in the Cold War-era space race with the 183-pound Sputnik, the first manmade object to sustain Earth orbit.