The Space Race means the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in the astronautics field between 1957 and 1975. This peaceful struggle started with the first artificial satellites, and the first human spaceflight, sending space probes to explore the planets closest to the Earth and culminated with sending astronauts to the Moon.
The space race was a manifestation of the Cold War, which the two superpowers started from the end of the Second World War and was first manifested in the arms race with the development of the first atomic bombs, long-range bombers, and missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The space race started when the Soviets successfully launched the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 October 4, 1957 and thus questioned the technological superiority of the United States. The global impact of this first space launch caused a very rapid reaction of the United States that invested heavily to catch up the USSR in the field of astronautics.
The success of the space missions became a significant issue in the technological, ideological, and cultural rivalry between the two countries. The first space succeed one another, at first mainly by the Soviets and then gradually, as the investments produce their effects, by Americans. These successes were exploited more or less explicitly to show the superiority of one political system to another.
The space race, which originated the Apollo program (1961) and has set itself the goal of bringing men to the moon, became the largest space program of all time.
In the 1950s and 1960s – the period of the Cold War – the political-ideological contradictions were found between the two competing systems. The reasons for the race can be divided into two motivations in simplified:
- • Propaganda motives: Both parties wanted to prove their own technical superiority to demonstrate the superiority of their own social system.
- • Military Designs: Even the V2 rocket had proved its effectiveness during World War II. Although it was economically a bad investment, because it was very inaccurate and its production was very expensive, but due to its high speed it could not be intercepted. By the launch of Sputnik, it was then proved that it is possible to carry an object (potentially, nuclear warhead) over the ocean. At one stroke, the U.S. had been set back for years in the arms race with the USSR.
Both camps – East and West – intensely used know-how from rocket engineers who had worked on the German side in Peenemünde in World War II in the military missile program. With the end of the war, these engineers went to both camps so to speak, as spoils of war. On both sides, the rocket model A4 became the basis for the development of missiles that could actually carry a payload into the space. In the first years, the Soviet Union dominated in space, later the U.S. could catch up. With the landing first on the Moon they could win in the public perception the race even.
More on the topic, you will find in space race research papers for college and university classes.
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