The SPACE RACE – Synopsis
The SPACE RACE was an informal competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to see who could make the furthest advancements into space first.
The Space Race became an important part of the cultural, technological, and ideological rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War because of both its potential military applications and the morale-boosting social benefits.
As World War II drew to a close, U.S., U.K., and Soviet military and scientific teams raced to capture technology and trained and experienced”experts” from GERMANY.
The U.S. arguably benefited most, taking a large number of German rocket scientists – many of them members of the Nazi Party, from Germany.
Later they played a decisive role in development of the U.S. space program and became responsible for many U.S. achievements during the first decade of the Space Age.
The Space Race effectively began after the Soviet Launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957.
A month later, the USSR successfully orbited Sputnik 2, with the first living passenger, a dog named LAIKA.
The dog was never meant to be returned back to Earth, dying five to seven hours after launch from overheating and stress.
The American Project Vanguard rocket program experienced launch failures that were embarrassing to the U.S. effort.
Because of its military and political implications, Sputnik’s success and Vangaurd’s failure caused much political turmoil and “crisis” in the U.S.
Four months after the launch of Sputnik 1, the United States launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, becoming the second “space power”.
The first communications satellite was launched in 1958, relaying a Christmas message from President Eisenhower to the world.
The American space program sent “HAM” the chimpanzee into space in 1961.
Soviet cosmonaut YURI GAGARIN became the first human in space and orbit the earth on April 12, 1961.
Twenty-three days later American ALAN SHEPARD entered space.
On February 20, 1962 JOHN GLENN became the first American to successfully orbit Earth.
GLENN also went up on the space shuttle at age 77 in 1997.
Soviet VALENTINA TERESHKOVA became the FIRST WOMAN in space on June 16, 1963.
Though the achievements made by the U.S. and Soviet Union brought great pride to their respective nations, there was a great political determination in the U.S. not to be seen as a nation lagging behind in the field of space exploration.
This led to then-President Kennedy’s announcement in 1961 that America “should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the MOON and returning him safely to the earth.”
Kennedy looked to capture the public’s imagination with the APOLLO Program.
Kennedy felt “national security” justified the Space Race as a vital front in the Cold War.
In December 1968, three American astronauts ORBITED the MOON.
American NEIL ARMSTRONG became the first person to set foot on the lunar surface on July 21, 1969, as APOLLO 11 was watched by over 500 million people around the world.
The first SPACE STATION, the Soviet’s SALYUT 1, commenced operations in 1971.
Military uses paralleled scientific efforts – both sides developed RECONNAISSANCE SATELLITES.
The American “SKYLAB” space station gathered data, and the SPACE SHUTTLE was intended to return spaceships intact from space journeys.
The 1975 rendezvous of the U.S. APOLLO and Soviet SOYUZ spacecraft marks the end of the Space Race.