The Space Race essay


TheSpace Race

byStudent Name


TheSpace Race emerged as a competition amid the United States of Americaand the USSR in exploring space through the use of artificialsatellites, as well as manned spacecraft. Also, Space Race can beperceived to be part of the larger race in arms since developments inspace research could easily become shifted to military research.1 amid these two nations became experienced during theCold War and had different impacts. In this paper, Space Race wouldbe discussed and its impact on the American society. The paper willargue whether Space Race had a negative or positive impact on theAmerican society.

Boththe United States as well as the Soviet Union emerged from the SecondWorld War as enemies in the Cold War. The Cold War was an openrivalry, where the two nations contended for political power andstanding in the globe without fighting a real battle. Rather thanengaging in real battle during the Cold War, the two nations foughtthrough propaganda and scientific as well as technologicalaccomplishments. Most of the technology that resulted in spaceexploration had origin from the military. The WWI and WWII led to thedevelopment of government scientific research facilities, which werecharged with the responsibility of designing military aircraft.Indeed, WWII had offered a motivation for rocket development in theUnited States, Soviet Union, and Germany among other countries.2During the time, the Germans were considered the most advanced in thedesigning of rockets. The Germans were recognized in the designing ofthe V-2 rockets that eventually reached space. Following theconclusion of WWII, the United States purchased several V-2s thatcould be used for research.

Atthe conclusion of the WWII, the United States had appeared as thetechnological giant in the globe since it had detonated the firstatomic bomb in 1945 as well as the first hydrogen bomb in 1952.However, despite having the benefit of being recognized as thetechnological giant in the world, Soviet Union made quick and greatadvances in rocketry. When the United States was working on a launchvehicle into space, the Soviet Union was already a mile ahead sinceit had successfully worked on a satellite SputnikIby 1957 October.3 After a period of one month, the Soviet Union also launched SputnikII,which showed its progress in the Space Race.

Theearly successes of the Soviet Union in space technology were a majorblow to the American confidence and pride. The United States hadneglected serious attempts of reaching space since the militaryofficials had a preference of concentrating on weapons developmentand the Eisenhower administration was so much concerned withmaintaining the country’s budget balanced through decreased fundingto different scientific efforts. The launching of Sputnikemerged as a wake-up call to the Americans.4The United States feared that the globe would see the Soviet Union assuperior due to technology in the space. The launch of Sputnikwas perceived as a threat by the United States since it could beargued that if the Russians were in a position of launching asatellite into space, then they could be in a position to land awarhead on the American soil. In an attempt to cast out this fear,United States officials moved quickly in putting up a space programso as to salvage the national pride as well as the internationalprestige. This was facilitated through President Eisenhowerestablishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration(NASA), which was to oversee space programs. The establishment ofNASA was to ensure that the United States caught up with the spacedevelopments of the Soviet Union.

Theestablishment of NASA was an important milestone in the launch ofspace programs of the United States. The space programs that wereoverseen by NASA are discussed in the following paragraphs.


Inits response to the launch of SputnikIand IIby the Soviet Union, the United States launched the Vanguard testsatellite during the end of 1957. The launch of this program was astunning failure. The United States Navy’s Vanguard rocket justrose approximately over a meter before sinking back towards thelaunch pad and exploded the moment its fuel tanks ruptured. Unlikethe Sputnik,which had orbited the globe for more than two months at anapproximate height of 250 km, the Vanguard could not reach thisheight. The Vanguard test satellite was thrown clear and the launchvehicle exploded, making it land on the ground just a short distanceaway. NASA took control of the Vanguard program, and later onlaunched the Mercury project.5

TheMercury Program

TheMercury program became established so as to discover if it waspossible for a man to survive in space as well as to test whether aman could be put into orbit. This NASA program ran from 1959 to 1963and had a cost totaling $1.5 billion. As early as 1962, the Russianswere ahead of the aims of this program since they had alreadylaunched two men into orbit around the earth. The United States wassuccessful on this program because it was in a position to bring thefirst American into space Alan Shepherd. In 1961, Allan Shepherdsuccessfully made a sub-orbital flight. During the flight, Shepherdis considered to have taken a manual control of the spacecraft intesting its controls and made observations of the outside conditions.This was unlike in the Russian missions where cosmonauts wereindicated to have parachuted from the aircraft during landing. TheMercury program spacecraft possessed parachutes for the purpose ofslowing down during descent. Indeed, this made Shepherd to beconsidered as the first man to have returned to earth with his ship,which had a landing in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Inspite of the success, pressure was still there of sending an Americaninto orbit around the earth however, prior to risking the life of anastronaut, NASA desired to make sure that there was safety in itsspacecraft for the purpose of an orbital flight. The safety of thespacecraft was tested by Enos, who orbited the earth twice andsplashed-down alive off the Puerto Rican coast. In February 1962,John Glenn emerged as the first American to have orbited the earthusing Friendship 7. During the flight, Glenn was indicated toexperience different problems, including a problem with the controlsof the spacecraft. Also, he reported having observed fireflies, whichwere thought to be small ice crystals vented from onboard thespacecraft. In 1962, the second America’s spacecraft completedanother orbital flight.6

TheGemini Program

Initially,this program was perceived as an extension of the preceding Mercuryprogram. The primary aim of establishing this program was to come upwith techniques for more advanced space travel so as to pave the wayfor the Apollo program and its goal of landing a man on the moon.Also, this program had an objective of observing the impacts of longduration space flights on the astronauts as well as establishingrendezvous and docking approaches amid vehicles, and perfecting thetechniques of landing spacecraft at a certain pre-selected point. TheGemini program ran from 1961 through 1966. The Gemini spacecraft weredesigned such that they were in a position to carry two astronauts.Because the Gemini spacecraft were capable of carrying twoastronauts, the Gemini spacecraft were bigger compared to those usedin the earlier Mercury program. Also, the Gemini spacecraft hadonboard computers that could assist astronauts in orbiting andlanding. The Gemini program emerged as a huge success and resulted inmany important milestones in the space program of the United States.For instance, the Gemini program saw the first American Ed White, tobe involved in a spacewalk in 1965. On this spacewalk, White spentmore than 15 minutes doing maneuverability experiments through theuse of a nitrogen-powered gun. By the conclusion of the Geminiprogram, NASA had considerably depicted that space walks could becarried out easily and efficiently. Nevertheless, the Gemini programencountered some problems, where the astronauts had to leave themission 10 hours into their flight the moment the spacecraftcommenced rolling at the rate of one revolution per second.7The problem emanated from the striking of one of the spacecraft’sthrusters. However, the problem was stopped through the use ofcontrollers. Despite the problem, the astronaut was in a position toshow his preparedness in the program during emergency situations.

TheApollo Program

TheApollo program began in 1961 and ran until 1972. The program wasinitially designed for carrying out several manned missions thatwould orbit the earth. However, this changed with the announcementmade by President John F. Kennedy. In his speech to the Congress, inMay 1961, the president declared his desire of landing a man on theMoon and returning him to the earth safely.8This announcement resulted in a major change in the initial directionof the Apollo program, which was now focused on realizing thepresident’s dream.

TheApollo program was also associated with some problems. In 1967, thecrews of Apollo 1 were killed when they were on a training exercise.This was due to an electrical spark in the wiring of the Apollocapsule. The accident experienced by the crews resulted in a completeredesigning of the Apollo capsule. Also, at the time when NASA wasready to realize a moon landing attempt, the mission did not go asscheduled this is due to the Lunar Module’s guidance computer ledthe crew towards a vast crater when descending to the moon. However,a manual control helped in landing safely. However, despite thesechallenges, the program finally became a success, where Armstrong andAldrin emerged as the first individuals to land on the Moon. TheApollo program came to a conclusion in 1972 when Cernan emerged asthe last man to have a walk on the Moon.

Impactof Space Race on the American Society

TheSpace Race had different impacts on the American society. One of theimpacts of the Space Race was in the American politics. During theSpace Race, the presidencies of J.F. Kennedy and Eisenhower were putunder vast pressures. Upon the Soviet Union launching the Sputniksatellite,the assertiveness of President Eisenhower became questioned. This wasbecause the United States had initially come out of the WWII as thewinner in world technology, and its people believed that it wouldstill remain as the leader in world technology. However, upon theSoviet Union launching the Sputniksatellite,most people viewed the lagging behind of the United States and sawthe advancement of the Soviet Union in technology. This resulted inthe questioning of the assertiveness of President Eisenhower inleading the United States towards a more technology-advanced nation.9Alternatively, emanating from the Space Race, President J.F. Kennedyhad to maintain the morale high and support the Space Race when thepublic questioned the purpose, need, and the budget for the spaceprograms. The two presidents changed the manner in which theyintroduce policies to support the exploration of the space byscientists. Despite the increased lack of support from the Americanpublic in funding the space programs, the two presidents had to makebig sacrifices to ensure that the space programs were successful.Therefore, it can be argued that the Space Race had an impact on theAmerican politics.

Anotherimpact that the Space Race had on the American society is the taxburden. In an attempt to make the country successful in the SpaceRace, the United States presidents needed to direct more resources tothe space programs. The source of such resources was to be solicitedthrough taxing the public. This was evident as put by J.F. Kennedyduring the commence of the Space Race the president made it clearthat in case America was to accomplish its goal of going to the moon,Americans needed to make sacrifices. The sacrifices that theAmericans were to make were to come mostly through taxes. Also,according to the J.F. Kennedy’s argument, if America was going tomake it to the moon, then the NASA’s budget had to be increased.10This was an indication that heavy taxation was to be expected withthe success of the space programs. Therefore, the American public wasto be taxed highly so as to support the success of the Space Race.

Also,the Space Race had an impact on the American society because it madethe society change their belief system as they support things thatare unbelievable. This created an opportunity for people to explorefurther and discover the knowledge that they did not possess. Forinstance, during the Space Race, people believed that it was possibleto land on the moon and return to the earth alive. Although it seemedunbelievable, people had to make sacrifices and believe that landingon the moon was feasible. It was through this belief that people wereexposed to new knowledge and discoveries. Thus, it can be argued thatthe Space Race helped people to open up to new challenges, whichprovided an avenue for new discoveries. This is because the SpaceRace resulted in the space exploration, which made people know thingsthat they never knew.

Furthermore,another impact that the Space Race had on the American society isthat it changed the educational system as well as the imaginations ofthe people. led to the exploration of the space, andthis required the support of the educational system. Following thelaunch of the Sputniksatellite,lawmakers and the public commenced asking for a greater focus on mathand science in schools. This was because they believed that puttingmore emphasis on math and science would help in adding more knowledgeto learners and lead to more developments in the space explorations.Thus, the educational system changed for the better during the SpaceRace. Alternatively, the Space Race changed the thinking of thepeople since it comprised of different technological advancements.Different things, which are utilized today can be indicated to be asa result of space exploration, or can be said to have been improvedby space exploration.11For instance, as a result of space exploration, better sunglasseswere made, improved heat-absorbing sportswear became discovered, andsatellite television became made among other things. This led to anew perception of the universe.

Fromthe analysis of the impacts of Space Race on the American society, itcan be argued that the Space Race had a positive impact on theAmerican society. This is because most of the impacts were positiveon the society. For instance, it led to changing the educationalsystem for the better, transformed the thinking of individuals, andled to a positive transformation of American politics since it led topoliticians to support space exploration.


Duringthe Cold War, Space Race emerged as a competition between the UnitedStates of America and the Soviet Union in exploring space through theuse of artificial satellites, as well as manned spacecraft. Also,Space Race can be perceived to be part of the larger race in armssince developments in space research could easily become shifted tomilitary research. Instead of these two nations engaging in actualbattle, during the Cold War, they engaged in challenging each otherthrough scientific and technological developments. In an attempt toexplore the space, the United States supported various programs. TheSpace Race can be associated with different impacts on the Americansociety. Some of which include creating an opportunity for people toexplore further and discover the knowledge that they did not possess,increasing the tax burden, and transforming the educational systemamong other things. From the different impacts of Space Race on theAmerican society, it can be argued that Space Race led to a positiveimpact on the American society since most of the impacts werepositive.


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JFK`sMoon Shot: Q &amp A With Space Policy Expert John Logsdon.

JohnF. Kennedy Moon Speech– Rice Stadium. Retrieved from

Kay,W D. DefiningNasa: The Historical Debate Over the Agency`s Mission.Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005.

Lamb,Lawrence E. Insidethe Space Race: A Space Surgeon`s Diary.Austin, Tex: Synergy Books, 2006.

McConnell,William S. LivingThrough the Space Race.Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006.

Tomlin,Gregory M. Murrow`sCold War: Public Diplomacy for the Kennedy Administration.Lincoln: Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of NebraskaPress, 2016.

1 Kay, W D. Defining Nasa: The Historical Debate Over the Agency`s Mission. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2005. P. 64.

2 Lamb, Lawrence E. Inside the Space Race: A Space Surgeon`s Diary. Austin, Tex: Synergy Books, 2006. P. 94.

3 Tomlin, Gregory M. Murrow`s Cold War: Public Diplomacy for the Kennedy Administration. Lincoln: Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press, 2016. P. 83.

4 Cadbury, Deborah. Space Race: The Untold Story of Two Rivals and Their Struggle for the Moon. , 2006. Pp 74.

5 Tomlin, Gregory M. Murrow`s Cold War: Public Diplomacy for the Kennedy Administration. Lincoln: Potomac Books, an imprint of the University of Nebraska Press, 2016. P. 102.

6 McConnell, William S. Living Through the Space Race. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. P. 56.

7 McConnell, William S. Living Through the Space Race. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. P. 61

8 JFK`s Moon Shot: Q &amp A With Space Policy Expert John Logsdon.

9 McConnell, William S. Living Through the Space Race. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. P. 85.

10 John F. Kennedy Moon Speech – Rice Stadium. Retrieved from

11 McConnell, William S. Living Through the Space Race. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. P. 116.