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THE SPACE RACEArt NicoteraHistory 245: U.S History Since 1945March 12, 2016
1For nearly forty-six years, the Cold War produced events that had major impacts on American society. These events fueled the divide between the United States and the Soviet Unionand contributed to the proliferation of conflict. One of the most important events that took place during the Cold War was “The Space Race”. On October 4th, 1957, the Soviet Union, shocked the United States by launching the first artificial satellite into orbit, nicknamed “Sputnik”. The launch of “Sputnik” came at the height of the Cold War and triggered a “space race” with the Soviets.1The Space Race was a political and military event in which the political implications of space achievements also included a psychological impact of broad significance to national prestige.2Fear also began to arise that the United States was no longer the super power it once was. In an NSC document from January 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote “thanks totheir space triumphs, the Soviets’ baldest propaganda claims are taken at face value, and failure to catch up might give rise to the belief that the United States was now “second-best.”3The launch of Sputnik caught the United States by surprise, and they feared that the Soviet Union having a foothold in space would give them the capability of delivering nuclear warheads into the U.S. from space. The real motive in space would be political prestige, however the excuse for action would be the presumed military implications of losing the space race.While the Cold War ended in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, the results of the space race remain debated. While many believe the United States won the space race when we landed man on the moon in 1969, there are those that believe the space race is not over. With the 1 Sam Roberts, “1957: Sputnik Launches the Space Race,” (Sep 17, 2007), 24-26. .-edu/docview/207586381?accountid=3783.2 Walter A. McDougall, “Sputnik, the space race, and the Cold War.” in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists(1985), 243 Ibid.
2United States currently working on the next phase of space exploration, people must ask the question; Is the space race actually over? After the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and the launch of Yuri Gagarin in 1961, the U.S. government launched a government space venture that would match the Soviet Union stride for stride in the space race. The official objective, articulated by President John F. Kennedy, was to put a man on the moon. The U.S. government, as everyone knows, beat the Soviets to the punch in 1969 with the Apollo 11 lunar landing, and remains the only nation to have sent human beings beyond low Earth orbit.4Upon accomplishing Kennedy’s goal, many believed the space race had ended. The space program has continued since Apollo with the flagship American space project becoming the space shuttle, which was the first and (to date) only reusable space plane.5