The Cold War dominated the 85th Congress (1957–1959). Congress authorized military and economic aid to Middle Eastern countries fighting communist expansion and took a first step toward cracking racial segregation. The Soviet Union’s 1957 success in launching the first man-made satellite into Earth orbit inaugurated the “space race” between the superpowers. Congress established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); created congressional science panels; and passed the National Defense Education Act which funded enhanced science, mathematics, and foreign languages programs. In 1958, Congress passed a statehood act for Alaska which joined the Union in early 1959.