The Cold War/The Space Race

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While intelligence was being gathered, propaganda was being handed out, weapons were being developed, wars were breaking out across the globe, a totally different kind of conflict was happening above it. From 1957 to circa. 1975 the two superpowers were locked in a competition to be the first to explore outer space. The race to conquer space was dubbed as the "Space Race".

Apart from a few posters and articles, a television or a radio broadcast, both superpowers were convinced that the ultimate "nuclear bomb" of propaganda weapons was staying ahead in the Space Race, through magnificent and mouth-dropping accomplishments which showed to the world how modern and advanced their political system was.

Background[edit]

The world's first rockets were the V-6 and V-8 rockets, made by German rocket scientists in 1942 during World War Two. These were designed to carry 1000kg bombs over a long distance and were fired to a target where the the bombs would explode on impact. In 1944, Hitler decided to unleash his "secret weapon" and thousands of these rockets were launched at south-east Britain causing a lot of damage both physically and mentally.

But as the war was drawing to a close Germany was being squeezed from the Allies on one side and the Soviets on the other, hundreds of V-1 and V-2 rockets, and their scientists were captured by both sides and transported back to the home countries where they were "encouraged" to work and share their knowledge with them.

Launch of Sputnik: The Space Race Begins[edit]

The Soviet Union kick-started the Space Race when they launched the first ever satellite, called Sputnik 1 into orbit, on October 4th 1957. The event caused so much fear (Since in Soviet easily can replace the payload with warhead) and jealousy within the American public and government that the US government was forced to respond by revamping the whole education system and taking other desperate measures, in order to produce budding rocket scientists in the homeland. This was called the "Sputnik Crisis".

After some embarrassing failures at trying to launch a rocket in Cape Canaveral, and after four months of waiting, the Americans finally managed to successfully launch their own satellite, Explorer 1.

While launching Explorer 1 the United States realized that what the Soviet Union did by deploying Sputnik 1 into orbit redefined the ability to cross another nations boarders without provoking military escalation. Even though an aircraft could not cross the boarder of another nation, it was ok for a satellite to cross that line. Thus the Soviet Union set the ground work for future spy satellite missions by the United States and within a few short years, Corona was born.

First Man Enters Space[edit]

On the 4th November 1957, a dog named Laika paved the way for man to enter space, which eventually happened on the 12th April 1961, when the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth, in the Vostok I spaceship. This was another embarrassing blow to the USA and showed to the world again how technologically advanced their country was. Then, in 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space.

The Americans put their own man in space a year later. The USA was lagging behind their communist rival in the Space Race and they were going to have to take the initiative soon.

Moon Landings[edit]

President John Kennedy famously predicted in 1961 that the Americans would put the first man on the moon before the end of the decade. The statement was a pretty daring one, especially at a time when the USA was being repeatedly humiliated by the Soviets in outer space. Some people were inspired by it while, to others, it was an empty promise that was just going to add to the long list of US embarrassments. But to the amazement of the world, his prediction turned into reality in 1969.

Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to set foot on the moon, on 21st July 1969. Over 300 million people around the world watched the event through their television screens. It was a terrific achievement that more than made up for the bad start in the Space Race. The first words of Neil Armstrong were:

One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind

"a"- added in 2006 with the discovery of a blip in the recordings

The Soviets had to watch helplessly as all memory of their own accomplishments of putting man, woman and dog into space were all immediately washed away.

End of the Space Race[edit]

The cost of being in the Space Race was in the billions, and both the USA and the USSR knew that their economies wouldn't be able to handle this cost for long - each new achievement was even more expensive than the last one. After 1969, the Space Race was massively toned down and the idea that there was a "Space Race" going was starting to get out of date. Although the Sputnik launch obviously began the Space Race, what ended it is a matter of debate today.

Most people accept that it ended in 1975, when Soviet and American astronauts met, shook hands and ate together in a friendly meeting during the Apollo-Soyuz mission. The act was a friendly gesture and symbolized the USA and USSR's strengthening relationship, during a 10-year period of 'peaceful co-existence', called "Dètente".

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The Cold War

Introduction - Background - Strategy - Truman Doctrine - Marshall Plan - Berlin Blockade - Korean War - Hungarian Uprising - Cuban Missile Crisis - USSR under Gorbachev - USA under Reagan - Arms Race - Space Race


Cover - Contents - Study Guide


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