The space race has pushed the development of space technology to new frontiers. If there was no competition for superiority, the world would have been a different place. Thanks to this race, we are now thinking of colonizing Mars. Meanwhile, smaller companies are building new carriers, including Skylark L, to make satellite launches more affordable. So, let’s find out exciting facts about the space race and try to think about our future potential.
The race was the result of intense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR). This competition revolved around who could send a man first into space, who would gain the upper hand in satellite technology, and who would conquer space.
But this competition hasn’t always been like that. During the World War II period, the focus of the US-USSR rivalry was between who could develop nuclear ballistic missiles. As a result of the cosmic race, both countries have carried out many successful unmanned missions, launched many artificial satellites and sent many probes to Mars, the Moon and the lower orbit of the Earth.
A brief history of the space race
In the aftermath of World War II, there was a power vacuum in the global political arena. The United States was a strong supporter of democracy. And they were a truly capitalist society. On the other hand, the USSR was a communist country. Both countries displayed their military might, firepower, arsenal of weapons and global alliances. All of these influenced the technological progress of the space race.
This competition was not always fair. Both countries have accused each other of espionage. They would send spies to uncover the other’s most important secrets. And when the Korean War broke out, things quickly escalated. Furthermore, the Cuban missile crisis and the establishment of the Berlin Wall in 1961 only made matters worse between these two powers. This cosmic race continued until the fall of the USSR (1991).
Rocket development during the space race?
Thanks to a cosmic race, human civilization has seen great technological breakthroughs, and rocket technology was one of them. At first, the USSR had the upper hand. They landed the first man-made artificial spacecraft in Earth’s orbit.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched R-7, better known as Sputnik, into space. In Russian, Sputnik means “satellite”. This news was a major blow to American society. They took it as a great defeat. US military and government officials were particularly concerned about the USSR’s ability to place a nuclear warhead right above them, in orbit around the Earth.
Creation of NASA
This led America to investigate the military might of the USSR and the upcoming projects they had planned. Just a year after the USSR launched its Sputnik into space, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower formed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, little known as NASA. A new phase of NASA’s space race has begun. Thanks to their dedication and hard work, the United States was able to launch the Explorer I that same year.
The United States has also established two other cosmic programs. The first was intended to send satellites into low earth orbit to gather more information about the USSR and its allies. This program was called “Corona” and was kept secret. CIA, US Air Force and National Reconnaissance Office were responsible for this program.
Another program aimed to discover how space could be used to establish military superiority over other nations.
Sending humans and chimpanzees to space
During the space race, scientists sent humans, chimpanzees and dogs to space probes. After the success with the Sputnik Spacecraft, the USSR sent another spaceship to the moon. Luna 2 was launched in 1959 and successfully landed on the Moon.
The USSR was also the first to send a man into space. In 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth with the Vostok 1 probe. During that time, the cosmic race was warming rapidly. In the same year, the United States sent American astronaut Alan Shepard into space.
To gain the upper hand in Space Rivalry, NASA’s budget was increased by a margin of 500%. During 1961-1964, NASA had an internal team of 34,000 people. They also had 375,000 other people working as individual contractors.
How has space race technology changed our world?
Both the US and the USSR had shared their research and technology with their allies, thus consolidating their superiority. As part of their commitment, they have trained many scientists, academics and engineers.
India is a country that has benefited greatly from the space race between the US and the USSR. Indian scientists have received training and support from both of these countries. India was the first Southeast Asian nation to launch its probes. The Indian Space Research Organization and the USSR sent Aryabhata, the first Indian satellite, in April 1975.
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