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The Space Race

  • End of WWII

    End of WWII
    As WWII came to a close, Russia and the USA began a battle for the political system of the new world pitting communism against democracy. With both sides armed with nuclear missiles, the central characteristic of the Cold War was mutually assured destruction
  • Sputnik I launched into orbit

    Sputnik I launched into orbit
    On October 4, 1957, Russia shocked the world by announcing it had successfully placed a satellite into orbit. This was a wake up call to Americans who had not put serious attempts into getting a satellite into space. The Eisenhower administration was focused on balancing the federal budget and the US military had been spending the majority of their funding on weapons development.
  • Sputnik II is launched into orbit

    Sputnik II is launched into orbit
    The USSR followed their early success by sending another rocket into space with the first biological passenger: a dog named Laika. The rocket weighed 508.3-kilogram (1,120.8-pounds) and was 13ft tall. It was created in a rush following the success of Sputnik I in order to be ready for space before the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Its mission lasted for 162 days before it burned up upon re-entry.
  • Failed US Vanguard TV3 Rocket (Flopnik)

    Failed US Vanguard TV3 Rocket (Flopnik)
    In attempt to catch up with the Soviets, the US tried launching Vanguard Test Vehicle Three from Cape Canaveral on December 6, 1957. The booster ignited and the rocket rose; however, after two seconds, the rocket lost lift and fell back to Earth (4 feet). When it settled, the fuel tanks ruptured -causing significant damage to the rocket and the launch pad.
  • First US Satellite (Explorer I) Launched into Orbit

    First US Satellite (Explorer I) Launched into Orbit
    Explorer 1 was launched late on January 31, 1958 atop the first Juno booster from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Explorer 1 was designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at 13.97 kilograms (30.8 lb) and had 60 watts of power. It was designed by the US Army under Wernher von Braun. It was the first spaceship to detect the Van Allen radiation belt.
  • Explorer 2 is launched

    Explorer 2 is launched
    Explorer 2 was to be a repeat of Explorer 1. Unfortunately, the satellite failed to reach orbit after a malfunction in the Juno-I launch vehicle caused the fourth stage to not ignite.
    Explorer 2 was equipped with a Geiger counter for the purposes of detecting cosmic rays.
  • First solar powered satellite Vanguard 1 satellite is launched

    First solar powered satellite Vanguard 1 satellite is launched
    Vanguard 1 was the forth artificial Earth satellite. It was the first solar powered satellite. Although communication was lost in 1964, it still remains in orbit. It was manufactured by the Naval Research Laboratory and weighed 1.47 kg. It is only 6.4 inches in diameter. Vanguard 1 holds the record for being in space longer than any other object.
  • Explorer 3

    Explorer 3
    Explorer 3 was very similar in design to Explorer 1 and 2. It was manufactured by jet propulsion laboratories and weighed 14.1 kg (8.4 kg were instruments). Its mission was successful and lasted 93 days.
  • Sputnik 3 is launched

    Sputnik 3 is launched
    Sputnik 3 was the only successful rocket launched by the Russians in 1958. It was launched by a modified R-7 Semyorka missile developed for satellite launches. It weighed 1327 kg and orbited for 692 days. Sputnik 3 was an automatic scientific laboratory spacecraft provided data on pressure and composition of the upper atmosphere, concentration of charged particles, photons in cosmic rays, heavy nuclei in cosmic rays, magnetic and electrostatic fields, and meteoric particles.
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    Corona Reconnaissance Program

    As the race for the moon was underway, the CIA and US Air Force began to improve spy missions. There were plans for reconnaissance satellites, but as rocket launches were hard to hide, it was hidden in a public research program called Discover.
  • NASA created

    NASA created
    Since the Sputnik 1 launch, there had been significant debate among the federal government as to what agency should take charge of the space program. Some wanted the military to assume command, other wanted the NSF or NACA. However, on July 29, 1958, the US Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA was established on the roots of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).
  • First attempt to send aircraft to the moon: Luna E-1 No. 1

    First attempt to send aircraft to the moon: Luna E-1 No. 1
    The Russians remained busy at work. They attempted to create a rocket that would impact the moon. Unfortunately, the first attempt was highly unsuccessful as the rocket's strap on booster caused it to disintegrate 92s into flight.
  • First spacecraft launched my NASA: Pioneer 1

    First spacecraft launched my NASA: Pioneer 1
    NASA got to work quickly and launched their first spacecraft Pioneer 1 on October 11, 1958. The rocket soared high and reached a height of 70,700 miles above Earth's surface. The rocket was initially slated to reach the moon, but due to programming errors it reached a ballistic trajectory. Pioneer 1 made the first observations of hydromagnetic oscillations of the magnetic field, and took the first measurements of the density of micrometeorites and the Interplanetary Magnetic Field
  • First spacecraft in heliocentric orbit

    First spacecraft in heliocentric orbit
    Luna 1 (also known as Mechta) was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of Earth's moon and the first aircraft to enter heliocentric orbit.

    Luna 1 was originally slated to impact the moon, however due to incorrect timing in the upper stage, it missed the moon by 5900 km and instead entered heliocentric orbit. The spacecraft marked the first time where radio communication exceeded half-a-million-kilometer distance.
  • Yuri Gagarin: First Man in Space

    Yuri Gagarin: First Man in Space
    Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space when he flew into orbit on the Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961. The flight lasted 108 minutes. He beat American Alan Shepherd by only a few weeks. He almost died. Near the end of orbit, the spacecraft began spinning out of control. The incident was hidden from the world for several decades.
  • Alan Shepherd is the first American in space

    Alan Shepherd is the first American in space
    Following the Soviets sending Yuri Gagarin into space, the Americans finished work on the Mercury spacecraft and sent Shepherd into a brief space orbit. It was vicotry for the Americans, but it was time for the US to start leading in space victories.
  • John Glenn orbits the Earth three times

    John Glenn orbits the Earth three times
    On February 20, 1062, John Glenn became the third American in space when he was launched aboard the Mercury capsule Friendship 7. He was the first American to orbit Earth. In a flight that lasted 4 hours and 56 minutes, he circled the globe three times and reached speeds of more than 17,000 mph. He became an instant national hero.
  • "We choose to go to the moon"

    "We choose to go to the moon"
    On September 12, 1962 President John F. Kennedy delivered one of the most inspirational speeches of the 20th century. While at Rice University, he challenged the country "before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth among other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard". He romanized the space race and made it a challenge in which Americans could believed.
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    Cuban Missile Crisis

    The Cuban Missile crisis brought the reality of nuclear warfare to life. The 13 day political standoff revolved around Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba (90 miles from the US) and US nuclear missiles in Turkey. The nuclear weapons were discovered by a U2 pilot and heightened the importance of spy photography. After 13 days, both sides agreed to remove their nuclear weapons; however, the Cold War was far from over.
  • First woman in space: Cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova

    First woman in space: Cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova
    Cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963 aboard Vostok 6. She spent 71 hours orbiting the Earth 48 times. Upon her return to Earth, she had spent more time in space than all US astronauts combined. Her spacecraft was entirely automatically controlled and she never took manuel control. As her spacecraft reentered the atmosphere, she successfully parachuted to Earth after ejecting at 20,000ft.
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    Manned Orbiting Labratory

    The Manned Orbiting Laboratory was a military reconnaissance space plane project. It was publicized as a technology-development platform to aid space efforts, however it was also set to be the first US manned spy satellite. The Corona Program did not have sophisticated enough cameras to take detailed photos of specific targets. The program was terminated in 1969 due to budget cuts with the Vietnam War. The classified plan was released in 2015
  • Alexei Leonov performs the first spacewalk

    Alexei Leonov performs the first spacewalk
    On March 18, 1965, Alexi Leonov left his Voskhod-2 to float in space. The spacewalk lasted 12 minutes and 9 seconds. It was a dangerous endeavor. Connected to a 5.35m tether, he attempted to take pictures, but his suit began to blow up due to pressure. He reduced his oxygen but nearly suffered the bends.
  • First successful flyby of Mars: Mariner 4

    First successful flyby of Mars: Mariner 4
    Mariner 4 was the first successful flyby of the planet Mars. It returned the first pictures of the planet's surface -it represented the first images of another planet from deep space. It took 7.5 months to reach Mars, and the satellite flew by for two days. It returned 5.2 million bits of information. The total cost was estimated to be $83.2 million.
  • Luna 10 becomes the first artificial satellite to orbit any body beyond Earth

    Luna 10 becomes the first artificial satellite to orbit any body beyond Earth
    Luna 10 was a Russian satellite that was the first artificial satellite to circle the moon. It collected extensive data from scientific readings about the Moon's magnetic field, radiation belts, nature of lunar rocks, cosmic radiation, and micrometeoroid density.
  • First Lunar Soft Lander: Surveyor 1

    First Lunar Soft Lander: Surveyor 1
    Surveyor 1 was the first soft-lander lunar module in NASA's surveyor program. This system gathered vital data through 11,237 still photos and collected information about the Moon's surface that was used in the Apollo missions to the Moon. Surveyor 1 was the first mission by an American space probe onto any extraterrestrial body and was NASA's first attempt at a soft landing on any astronomical object.
  • Tragedy for Americans: Apollo 1

    Tragedy for Americans: Apollo 1
    The Americans were full steam ahead and preparing to beat the Russians to become the first men on the moon. However, tragedy struck when a flash fire occurred in the command module during a launch pad test on January 27, 1967 killing all three astronauts. It brought a harsh reality back to the Apollo/Saturn mission. A board completed a comprehensive investigation that led to major design changes and an increase in safety to the command and service modules.
  • Neil Armstrong puts man on the moon

    Neil Armstrong puts man on the moon
    In one of the most iconic moments of the 20th century, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. President Kennedy's challenge was met and the American's had finally won a part of the space race. Armstrong famously stated "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
  • First aircraft on another planet: Venera 7

    First aircraft on another planet: Venera 7
    The Russian led another victory when the landed the Venera 7 on the surface of Venus. They also became the first spacecraft to transmit data from another planet back to Earth. The probe release very little recording once it landed and it is believed to have fallen on its side which reduced the transition signal that could be sent back to Earth. It found the temperature on the surface of Venus is 887F and the pressure was 90 atm (equal to approximately 900m below sea level).
  • President Nixon announces Space Shuttle

    President Nixon announces Space Shuttle
    On January 5, 1972, President Nixon signed a bill authorizing $5.5 million dollars to develop a reusable space shuttle rather than continue the one and done Apollo strategy. It ushered in a new era to the Space Race that offered scientists and researchers more time in space. The overall goal was to launch as many as 50 missions per year and reduce the cost of per-mission endeavor.
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    As space-life became more than a dream, there grew a desire to develop a manned space station. Skylab circled the Earth from 1973-1979. It sustained crews for up to 3 months at a time The 169,950-pound space station included a workshop, a solar observatory, and a multiple docking adapter. Before Skylab, the longest American spaceflight was 14 days. The first crew of Skylab spent 28 days in space and showed that humans adapted well to zero gravity. Skylab paved the way for the ISS.
  • Salyut 3 -a weapon in disguise

    Salyut 3 -a weapon in disguise
    Salyut 3 was a prime example of why the Space Race began in the first place. The Russians had the Almaz program which was a military program disguised as civilian Salyut space stations. Recently it was release that the station had a massive gun that could be used to shoot down other satellites and spacecraft. Few details have been released from the program; however, the spaceship was deorbited and disintegrated in the atmosphere January 24, 1975
  • Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

    Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
    The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was the first joint US-Soviet spaceflight and the final Apollo flight (Apollo 18). The mission was seen as diplomatic and was the official end of the Space Race. It included joint and separate scientific experiments and provided groundwork for the International Space Station (ISS).