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Space Race Between the Soviet Union and the United States

Autor:   •  April 5, 2018  •  1,397 Words (6 Pages)  •  196 Views

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On January 2, 1959, Lunik 1 was launched (Diamond, 147). The Russians had big plans with this rocket, instead of just orbiting the Earth they planned for it to hit the moon, however it missed by 3,728 miles (Schefter, 78). Lunik was able to surpass the distances of all previous satellites and truly enter space it was not considered a failure. The Soviet Union had steeped the space race up a notch again. The Russians had launch Lumik 3 and created the first photographs of the far side of the moon (Sheldon, 48). With those two breakthroughs of obtaining pictures and flying past the moon the next goal was landing a man on the moon. The first nation to accomplish landing a man on the moon would be the undisputed winner.

NASA had planned to put a man into space during the early 1961, but due to the medical community the flight was delayed so they could perform more test flights with apes. On April 12, 1961 because of NASA’s caution, the Soviet Union placed the first man in space (Harvey, 5). Yuri Gagarin entered space at 9:06 a.m. in his spacecraft called Vostok 1, which orbit the earth and then returned (Harvey, 5). It was later known that Gagarin was forced to eject from the craft, therefore invalidating Vostok 1 as being successful (Harvey, 5). This was a pattern of the Soviet dishonesty and lower morale for NASA.

On the morning of May 5th Allan Shepard got into his Mercury 7 capsule and was launched into space at 9:32 a.m. (Diamond, 56). Shepard was able to perform a successful 15-minute suborbital flight. Even though the United States had successfully put a man in space, the Soviets were still ahead of them with their full orbit of Earth. On May 25, 1961 Kennedy met with Nakita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, and suggested that the two nations combine space programs to create a lunar program (Schefter, 146). Khrushchev declined the offer and was later quoted as saying, “(a combined space programs) will mean opening up our rocket program to them. We have only two hundred missiles, but they think we have many more. “(Schefter,146). After being asked if he had something to hide, he stated, “It is just the opposite. We have nothing to hide. We have nothing. And we must hide it.” (Schefter,146). Kennedy had just redefined the race, and Khrushchev had redefined the separation between the two participants.

On July 20, 1969 the space race had came to an end, when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon for the first time. Neil Armstrong spoke his famous words, “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” America had won the space race (Schefter, 288).

After winning the race, America lost interest in the moon. Apollo 17 was the last lunar mission in 1972 (Oberg, 42). Russian and American collaboration in space took place in July 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz mission (Oberg, 45). President Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev wanted to prove that the United States and the Soviet Union could work together in space.


Diamond, Edwin. The Rise and Fall of the Space Age. Garden City: Doubleday, 1964. Harvey, Brian. Russia in Space: The Failed Frontier? Chichester: Springer, 2001. Oberg, James E. The New Race for Space. Harrisberg: Stackpole Books, 1984. Schefter, James. The Race. New York: Doubleday, 1999.

Web Resources This site is the main NASA page, a great place to find anything you want about space. This site has the history of the Sputnick satellite. This site has a good (brief) history of the space race. This site has a good history of spaceflight and flight itself. This site has a timeline of flight.


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