The space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
began in 1957and ended in1969.Broadcasts were interrupted in the U.S. on Oct. 4th
on all radio stations. Americans were told to” listen now to the sound
that forever separates the old from the new.” That sound was a beep.
It was coming from a soviet satellite, Sputnik. The
reaction of Jacqueline Johnson of St. Louis was pretty typical of most
American’s . “I remember being excited on one hand and kind of scared
on the other. We thought that if the Russians could send a missile
into space, they might be capable of aiming something deadly at the
U.S.” She also commented on changes in schools, “ Almost immediately
the schools started a real push to bring more math and science to a
prominent place in all student schedules.”
At first the United States was unsuccessful. The
explosion of the Vanguard rocket was an embarrassment:
however, on January 31, 1958 Explorer I was launched. Unfortunately
the Soviets were still ahead and in July of 1958 NASA
was created to help us catch up.
Prior to humans being sent into orbit, both the
United States and the Soviets experimented with sending animals
up in rockets to learn how they did. On April 12, 1961 the Russians
moved ahead again when they successfully launched Yuri Gagarin
into orbit around the earth. Jacqueline Johnson remembers this
occurrence this way “He became a hero around the world, even her in
this country. I think many people admired the accomplishment on a
persona level---the bravery that it must have taken for him to fly
higher than anyone had ever gone.” The U.S. was sending men into
sub-orbital flights at this time. Alan Shepard was the
first American sent up.
When John F. Kennedy was elected
President, he made a vow that, “ We choose to go to the moon in this
decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because
they are hard.”
Shortly after making this pledge, the first American, John Glenn,
orbited the earth.
Now this was becoming a real race to see who
could get to the moon first. In 1965 both the U.S. and the Soviets
were making space walks to see how men could operate outside outside
their vehicles. In 1966 and unmanned Soviet space craft orbited the
One of the most memorable accomplishments of the
United States was in December of 1968. That was when the crew of
Apollo 8 orbited the moon and took memorable pictures of the Earth .
According to Mary Ann Muirhead, 1968 had been a year of riots and
turbulence in America. The pictures and scripture readings from Apollo 8 seemed to save a year that really needed saving.
All America and most of the world cheered on July
20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped off the Eagle and
announced to the world, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap
for mankind.” The race was over. The Soviets never went to the
moon. To this day the only footprints on it belong to Americans.
People sometimes ask if the space program was worth all the money
invested. Here are a few of the ways this race has helped the
average person: scratch resistant lenses, freeze dried foods, foamless
toothpaste, programmable pace maker and more!
Click here for more great ways this race helped us.