NASA and the Race to Put a Man in SpaceBy: Melissa Tan(History 152)
Brief BackgroundAfter World War II ended, the Cold War began soon after. Both the United States and theSoviet Union arose as prominent power holders and quickly became competitors against one another. The Cold War ended up being implemented into everyone’s daily lives. It ended up being powered by the arms race, the rising awareness of nuclear weapons, issues dealing with espionages (both within and cross countries), and the Korean War. Throughout all these tensions,the space race would be taking place. Much of the tension would be worsened by some key events such as the making of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis, and a war that broke out in Southeast Asia.October 4, 1957On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union decided to launch the Sputnik, the world’s first satellite and artificial object to be ejected into Earth’s orbit. This news came to be a surprise to the United States, however not an enjoyable surprise. It caused the United States to take urgent actions in order to catch up to the Soviet Union. The United States saw space exploration as the next frontier and a way to further expand their grounds. They therefore did not want to lose too much land or time to the Soviet Union. By 1958, the United States launched a satellite of its own, the Explorer 1. The satellite was made by the U.S. army under the management of rocket scientist Werner von Braun. The SputnikSputnik was one of the many reason for the start of the Space Race. It was the Soviet Union’s satellite that inevitably became the first artificial satellite in the world to orbit in space. The name of the satellite translates to the Russian word for “satellite”. Sputnik was launched from a launch base in Kazakh Republic. While in orbit, the satellite would transmit radio signals
back to Earth and the United States (because they had the right equipment) were able to tune in to these signals. By January 1958, Sputnik’s orbit degraded and the satellite ended up disintegrating in the Earth’s atmosphere. Explorer 1Explorer 1 was the first satellite that the United States invented. It indirectly announced that the United States had gained more confidence and showed that they were ready to take on the space race against the Soviet Union. A person that greatly contributed to the creation of the Explorer 1 was Werner von Braun. The satellite’s original purpose for creation was to make a contribution during International Geophysical Year. However, due to the breaking news of the Soviet Union beating them to it, its purpose for production was redirected to winning the Space Race. After being launched into space, two months after the launch of Sputnik, Explorer 1 was able to stay in orbit for more than a decade before finally descending and entering back into Earth’s atmosphere on March 31, 1970.Who is Werner von Braun?