Point Four Program
The United States recognized that the Soviet Union's expansion threatened not only Europe but it developed nations of the world. For this reason, in 1949 President Truman proposed and Congress approved nearly $400 million for technical development programs in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. The goal of this Point Four Program was to modernize and strengthen the economies of developing nations and thereby discourage the growth of communism. This policy of containment has worked very effectively. There are less communist countries today then there were before the Cold War.
Glasnost, Gorbachev's first policy, eliminated the strict censorship that the government had practiced for hundreds of years. In Russian, Glasnost stands for "openness," and Soviet citizens were therefore permitted to speak openly about their society's problems. Formerly banned books were made available. In general, citizens were given freedom of speech, press, and assembly. Perestroika, Russian for "restructuring," was Gorbachev's next step. Perestroika was not an attempt by Gorbachev to destroy communism, but an attempt to end the inefficiency and corruption that was common. Some features of private enterprise returned under perestroika. Local factories had more power of their decisions as planning was decentralized.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The United States and other Western European nations decided that another effective method of containing the spread of communism would be to form alliances. In April 1949 the United States approved the North Atlantic Treaty. Under it the United States joined with eleven other western nations in a collective security agreement. Such an agreements binds participating nations to act together for their common defense. Members pledged that an attack on any of them would be considered an attack on all of them. Defense arrangements were coordinated through NATO. The Soviets later formed an opposing alliance. NATO still exists today and has been used by means of peaceful coexistence with other countries.
Spread of Nuclear Weapons
Due to the arms race during the Cold War, many countries in the world possess nuclear weapons. This is a tremendous threat to the world. Some speculate that a WWII might bring out a full scale nuclear war. Many countries including the U.S., however, have already taken steps to prevent the future use of these weapons, such as the signing of treaties.
The Space Race
The Space Age started on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into orbit around the earth. Sputnik 1 was the first satellite around earth. As Sputnik 1 marked the beginning of the space age, many Americans reacted with astonishment. President Eisenhower tried to downplay the situation, knowing that if the Soviet Union won the race to orbit American's would be very embarrassed.
Project Vanguard was the program initiated by the United States in September of 1955 to provide a launch vehicle for satellites. Americans anxiously waited for a satellite to call their own. Their opportunity came on December 6, 1957, which was the launch date of the first fully operational Vanguard rocket. However, soon after ignition, the booster settled back onto the launch pad, toppled over, and exploded.
On July 27, 1958 Eisenhower signed legislation which created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA was designed to operate separately from the Department of Defense and was also required by its 1958 charter to make its research available to the American public. Through the years, NASA developed its own rockets, spacecraft, and communications networks.
Even after the United States got its first spacecraft into orbit, the lead remained with the Soviets. In 1959, the Soviet space program began its attempts to reach the moon. The Soviets launched the unmanned Luna 2 on September 12, 1959, which then struck the moon 35 hours later. The American program to reach the moon was the Apollo program. Apollo 8 was launched using the powerful Saturn 5 booster on December 21, 1968. It took three days for Apollo to reach the moon, and then orbited the moon. The Apollo 11 mission was the first lunar landing. Nearly a million people jammed Cape Kennedy roads for a view of the July 16, 1969 launch. The Eagle was the lunar landing module aboard which were Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin. On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong took the first step on the moon.