Sputnik’s launch into space in 1959 became a crowning achievement by the Soviet Union being the first country to embark into outer space. It was the start of several milestones that also included putting the first man (Yuri Gagarin in 1961) and woman (Valentina Tereshkova in 1963) in space.
It also marked a major blow to the United States both politically and emotionally, as the fear of losing the war of global supremacy and the possibility of the Soviets having sole control of outer space, using the it to rain nuclear missiles onto American soil.
With the both countries trying to gain the upper hand in the space race, President John F. Kennedy made it clear that a top U.S. priority was putting an American man on the moon before the Soviets. While Kennedy would not be able to see Neil Armstrong make his first step on the lunar surface, the United States became the first, and only nation to have a person land on the moon.