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The Space Race Essay

705 words - 3 pages

HIST101-1304B-10 Modern American History 1950 to the 21st Century

The Space Race

The Space Race began on October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched a satellite into space named Sputnik. This satellite began its journey attached to a Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Sputnik was the first piece of man made equipment ever sent into orbit around the Earth. The launch of Sputnik showed the United States that they were behind the power curve when it came to exploring space. The other thing that the Sputnik launched showed the United States was the power and range of the Soviet’s R-7 ICBM. It seemed that the Soviet Union was capable of delivering nuclear warheads to U.S. soil. This encouraged the U.S. military to take a particularly hard look into the weapon advancements that the Soviets were making. By 1958 the United States launched its own satellite into space, known as Explorer I. It was designed by the U.S. Army and over watched by a rocket scientist, ...view middle of the document...

The following year the Space Race gained extraordinary speed both by the U.S. and the Soviets. The Soviets would launch a space probe named Luna 2 onto the moon. This was a first by any country. Then in April 1961 the Soviets would perform another first for the Space Race they launched Vostok 1. This capsule was carrying a man named Yuri Gagarin inside and he became the first person to orbit the Earth. Then in May 1961 the U.S. quickly engaged Project Mercury, which would also launch a man into space, Alan Shepard. 1962 would put John Glenn into orbit, the first American to orbit Earth.
President John F. Kennedy made a public claim that America would land a man on the moon before the decade ended. Project Apollo was then born and by the end of the 1962 was in full swing. Project Apollo started in 1961 and made great strides in the lunar landing program until 1967 when three astronauts were killed in a simulated launch and the spacecraft caught fire. In December 1968 Apollo 8 orbited the moon for the first time ever in history. Then in July 1969 the single most recognized moment in U.S. space exploration history occurred. Apollo 11 successfully landed on the moon with astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins. It was at this moment when Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, which he called “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
It was when the United States successfully landed and walked on the moon in 1969 that the Americans “won” the space race. Although the U.S. was outplayed in the beginning with the Soviets launching Sputnik into orbit, we overcame and proved to be the great country that we are. The Soviets never successfully launched a lunar landing craft during the space race. However, in 1975 a great stride for space peace was made when American and Soviet spacecrafts docked with each other and the two commanders shook hands in space. This showed the tensions between the two countries were subsiding.

The Space Race. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2013, from
Dunbar, B. (2011, May 23). Leading the Race to Space. NASA. Retrieved November 25, 2013, from

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