In an Oval Office meeting a few days after Soviet Russia launched Sputnik in October 1957, two points emerged. Eisenhower’s deputy defense secretary, Donald Quarles, told the president that “there was no doubt that the Redstone, had it been used, could have orbited a satellite a year or more ago.” The administration had, for whatever reason, chosen to try to put a civilian face on the budding U.S. space program, and the Army’s Redstone rocket didn’t fit the image that Ike wanted to present.

More important was Quarles’s point that “the Russians have in fact done us a good turn, unintentionally, in establishing the concept of freedom of international space — this seems to be generally accepted as orbital space, in which the missile is making

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