If someone were to hear the words “Space Race”, they may imagine various planets lacing up their running shoes and sprinting a few laps around the solar system. While this imagery is certainly amusing, the reality of the Space Race is entirely different. The Space Race actually refers to the rivalry between America and the Soviet Union, cold-war competitors, and their achievements in the field of Space exploration. Winning the Space Race was essential to both countries. The Soviet Union initiated the Space Race and established an early lead with its highly regarded and unexpected Space achievements. Refusing to be surpassed, America soon followed the example of the Soviets with matched success in their Space achievements. Later in the race, it was determined that the winner would be the first nation to plant their flag on the moon. The Soviet Union and America developed and showcased great aerospace capabilities during the Space Race; in spite of a tremendously close race, America was ultimately crowned the champion for reaching the moon first.The Cold War emerged soon after the ending of World War II when tensions sky-rocketed between the world’s two greatest superpowers and their allies. Both the democratic United States and the communist Soviet Union sought to justify the superiority of their technology through demonstration of its aerospace capabilities. In the Prologue of Deborah Cadbury’s Space Race, she described the Space Race as an “open contest between Capitalism and Communism.” Dominance in the area of Space exploration became one of many competitions in the Cold War. Advancements in artificial satellites, unmanned Space probes, human space flight, and impressive feats in rocketry demonstrated power, potential, and primacy. (airandspace.si.edu)National pride was not the only incentive for victory in this race. Those who controlled Space were also in control of national surveillance and international stability. The ability to create and fire nuclear warfare was closely associated with the technology used to develop missiles and rockets. (Deborah Cadbury) When the Soviets launched Sputnik into Space, they used an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) named R-7. This technology is a guided ballistic missile with a minimum range of 5,500 kilometers primarily designed for the delivery of nuclear weapons. (cia.gov) Sergei Korolev was the lead developer for the Soviet Union and headed up the development of R-7. This missile contained enough power to launch a nuclear warhead across the globe to the United States and was used to launch Satellites into Space. (airandspace.si.edu) If this kind of power fell into the wrong hands, global security could be jeopardized in a matter of seconds.The widespread fallacy that the Soviet Union was developing missile technology superior to the United States is commonly referred to today as the Missile Gap. Unmistakably, the Soviet Union had fixated all of their major efforts into developing technology that would leave other countries without defense. (cia.gov) In one fell swoop, the Soviet Union was able to design, develop, and test technology that not only boosted their lead in Space exploration, but it also provided them with military advantage. In order to establish dominion over Space, both countries had to develop technology, finish victoriously, and maintain control of national security.The Space Race began to unfold on October 4, 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik into orbit. A month later Larika the dog, the first space voyager, orbited around the earth aboard Sputnik II. Sputnik III, weighed about 3,000 pounds, when it was successfully launched in the next year. Climatically, the Soviets succeeded in putting the first man in Space.Sputnik I aroused the world. The Soviet Union had succeeded in launching Sputnik using the Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile. Over the next three months, Sputnik orbited the earth every hour and a half and transmitted radio signals for 21 days before being reduced to ashes in the atmosphere. Sputnik was too little to be seen from earth without a telescope. Many were uneasy and regularly looked up into the sky, expecting to see Sputnik zoom across the night-sky, however few people understood that Sputnik was too little to be seen without proper equipment. (cia.gov)Furthering their margin of lead, the Soviet Union fired a second shot to the world with Sputnik II. This satellite was not only a great technological advancement, but it also carried the first living being, a female dog named Larika. Sputnik II was launched only one month after the alarming success of Sputnik I. This satellite weighed half a ton and outperformed all American efforts at the time. The Americans rockets, the Atlas and the Titian, were nowhere near as developed to orbit the earth with a load as massive as 1,000 pounds let alone advanced enough to support life. (history.nasa.gov) Sputnik II was launched, orbited around the earth, and relayed engineering and biological data from the Tral_D telemetry system. Due to thermal complications, researchers have concluded that Larika died after two days in orbit instead of the prospected ten days. (David Williams) Later the next year on March 15, the Soviet Union continued to parade their successful array of performances in Space with their launch of Sputnik III. According to the Nasa Space Science Data Coordinated Archive, Sputnik III obtained a mass twice times the weight of the combined previous satellites. Today, Sputnik III is recorded as the largest satellite that was flown at that point in time. On top of these notable achievements, the Soviet Union continued to captivate the world when it became the first to put man into space. Soviet Cosmonaut, (a Russian astronaut) Yuri Gagarin, went down in history as the first man ever to orbit the earth. On April 12, 1961, Gagarin orbited around the earth once aboard Vostok I which achieved a pivotal milestone in the race for Space. After a flight that lasted one hundred eight minutes, Gagarin returned to earth after ejecting from the spacecraft and parachuting to safety. (nasa.gov) The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum states, “Gagarin’s flight strongly fueled the argument that the U. S. S. R. was well ahead in the Space Race.” The successful launches of Sputnik I, Sputnik II, Sputnik III, and Gagarin’s heroic expedition on board of the Vostok I, proved the Soviet Union was indeed a contender in this race.Put yourself in America’s shoes for a moment. They had absolute confidence in the superiority of their technology and science, and believed all was right and well in the world. Then suddenly they heard the news. On October 4, 1957, Soviet Russia had launched the World’s first satellite into Space. An artificial satellite, nothing more than the size of a beach ball, transformed the course of history. The successful launch of Sputnik initiated agonizing fear and anxiety in America. The United States had been outdone, and they were caught completely off guard. Despite Eisenhower’s attempts to minimize the significance of this achievement, the public collapsed in the fear that they were trailing the Soviet Union regarding scientific efforts. President Dwight D. Eisenhower acknowledged public distress and began reconstructing the American Space effort. Directly after the launch of Sputnik, Eisenhower led America in responding to the “challenge” given by the Soviet Union by organizing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). T. Keith Glennan was designated as the first supervisor for NASA in August of 1958. Developing rockets with the capability to carry machines and humans into space, understanding more about the Space environment, and taking the first steps towards human exploration were the primary tasks NASA began to conquer. Due to the leadership of Glennan, NASA made steady progression in each of these target areas. (airandspace.edu) Project Mercury was one of the first, large undertakings of NASA. The goals for this project were very specific: orbit a manned spacecraft around Earth, understand about man’s ability to function in space, and recover both the man and spacecraft safely. Project Mercury was set in motion in 1958. Between 1961 and 1963, they successfully completed six manned flights. NASA was able to gather a volume of research from these flights including test sequences, flight preparation, and man’s ability to withstand space flight. (Sarah Loff)Another response of America to Soviet achievements in Space was the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). Recent Soviet accomplishments had jarred Americans to action. The National Defense Education Act provided more federal funding for math and science education. Instituted in 1958, the NDEA set apart millions of dollars to go towards loans for college students. They challenged states to improve schooling in the areas of science in hopes that enhancing public education could become a key component of national security. (khanacademy.org) Congress passed the National Defense Education Act in response to fear that the current American education system was not leading enough students into careers of science and technology. (senate.gov)Remarkably, the gap between America and the Soviet Union was not as pronounced as many seemed to believe. Just one month after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s renowned flight, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Despite a sub-orbital flight only lasting fifteen minutes, Alan Shepard renewed hope in America that they were still a rival in this race. On May 5, 1961, aboard the Freedom 7 Shepard was able to fly 116 miles high. President Kennedy awarded Alan Shepard the NASA Distinguished Service Medal for being the first American in Space. (Brian Dunbar) Shepard’s success was an enormous gain for America in Space.Later the next year in February of 1962, John Glenn became the first American ever to orbit the Earth. Glenn was able to continue the successful progress of America in Space by orbiting the earth three time and reaching an orbital velocity of 17,500 miles. Glenn’s success motivated those working in Space programs to continue to gather data. The NASA Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to Glenn for becoming the first man to orbit the earth. (jfklibrary.org) His mission provided NASA with insight about the Mercury spacecraft and astronauts in Space. Similar to the Soviets, America also used animals in test flights before human flight in Space. Remarkably, Able and Baker were the first animal Space pioneers to fly in space and return alive. Able was a rhesus monkey, and Baker was a squirrel monkey. On May 28, 1959, they were launched into orbit around the sun and completed a successful 360 mile high sub-orbital flight. There were several other experiments aboard the flight. These experiments included human and onion cells that were exposed to cosmic rays and returned to earth for study. Preceding the Able Baker mission, the United States had never successfully launched an animal into space and have it safely returned. As a result, the success of this launch was pivotal in catching up to the Soviet Union who had launched and safely retrieved about thirty animals into Space. (Nell Greenfieldboyce) The establishment of NASA, the National Defense Education Act, the start of Project Mercury, and the successful launches of Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and the monkeys proved America had established herself in the area of Space exploration.Despite American efforts, without an astonishing step forward the United States was sure to finish the Space Race in the shadow of Soviet Union advancements. President John F. Kennedy took immediate action and searched for a way that the United States could take the lead in this race. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum states that “President Kennedy understood the need to restore America’s confidence and intended not merely to match the Soviets, but to surpass them.” President Kennedy’s Vice President Lyndon Johnson sought out military and industry leaders at NASA and concluded that “with strong effort” the United States “could conceivably” beat the Soviets in sending a man around the Moon or, even more daring, land a man on the moon. (airandspace.edu)On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy addressed Congress and proclaimed the goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade. According to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, at that point the total time Americans had spent in Space was barely 15 minutes. Under President Kennedy’s challenge, all efforts towards Space were fixated toward the goal of a lunar landing; the nation’s once lagging Space efforts were now focused, driven, and mobilized. In his address to congress John F. Kennedy stated, “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult to accomplish.” (Howard Kaplan) Many things needed to be accomplished in order for man to step foot on the moon. The National Air and Science Museum stated that “NASA embarked on several science programs to prepare for a moon landing.” Finally, this competition reached a level playing field because neither the Soviet Union or America had yet developed a rocket to sustain this kind of mission. Before pushing ahead to human exploration on the moon, robots were used to provide engineers and scientists with knowledge of the geography of the Moon. In the 1960s the Ranger, Surveyor, and the Lunar Orbiter Spacecraft were used to study the Moon in preparation for Apollo missions. Engineers planning the Apollo program used the information provided by these missions to model for later exploration. From 1961 to 1967, the Ranger and Lunar orbiter program transferred photographic research of the Lunar surface. The Surveyor landed on the moon on April 20, 1967, to sample the surface. (airandspace.edu) Without the use of robots to test the surface, Kennedy’s dream of reaching the moon may never have been achieved. The Apollo Program began in 1961, and originally worked towards more manned orbital missions. However, the direction of this program was rerouted in May after Kennedy declared the goal of landing a man on the moon. In order to realize Kennedy’s dream, the direction of the Apollo program was entirely rerouted. Despite rough beginnings, NASA was prepared to attempt a moon landing by the summer of 1969. America reaped the benefit of their labors on July 20, 1969. That day two American astronauts disembarked from their feeble lunar module and made history. Thirty eighth year old commander Neil Armstrong was the first to ever step foot on the moon at precisely 10:56 PM. (John Wilford) Later he voiced the now preeminent quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Thanks to Neil Armstrong, Edwin (Buzz) Aldrin, and Michael Collins, America had rightfully and triumphantly won the Space Race. Aldrin described the surface as “magnificently desolate”. Along with footprints, the famed crew implanted an American flag and a plaque inscribed with the message, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon. July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.” (Brian Unbar) America’s first steps on the moon marked the end to an intense race and silenced the argument of superiority for victorious America. The Space Race could be referred to as a nail-biter. The World watched on edge as two great global forces strived for dominance over Space. Undeniably, the Soviet Union represented a great amount of technological perspicacity and understanding of science. Likewise, the United States was able to dazzle the world and win the race by ending their continuation of achievements with the greatest accomplishment in Space: landing man on the moon. However, what is the point of obtaining knowledge if we do not act upon it? While John F. Kennedy addressed Congress in 1961, he stated that “This nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.” (Howard Kaplan) Watching America rise to the challenge of putting a man on the Moon still inspires us today. Just as Kennedy challenged our Nation in the past, how will we respond to the challenges posed to us today? Will we cower and shrink back, or come together and accomplish more than we ever thought possible– to Space and beyond.