Written By Siroun Thacker (Grade 10)
Space is an inspirational concept that allows you to dream big. At first, it was all about finding another Earth and preservation about the human race. However, over time it became a competition. It became about who would break boundaries and make discoveries. It became about national pride, so countries spend many resources and money on advancing their space program.
One competition that changed the course of history was the lunar moon landing. It was a race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The USA wanted to win the race because it was a crucial part of the Cold War.
The race initially started in 1955. On 4th October 1957, the Russians placed the first man-made satellite into orbit, the Sputnik. Not a month passed before the USA too placed a satellite into orbit. On 12th April 1961, the Russians were successful to put the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. This threatened the USA because they were already behind and if they didn’t land on the Moon before them, it meant that they would lose the war. At this point, national pride was on the line.
When President Kennedy asked the NASA director what they could do about this he said, “the Soviet Union is way ahead of us and can probably put a man on the moon before us.” The President didn’t like the sound of that. So he cut a deal with Congress to join forces to defeat a common enemy, the Soviets. In 1961, he publicly announced his intentions for space and promised that by the end of the decade they would put a man on the moon. Soon after President Kennedy launched The Gemini Program which would develop the technology for the Apollo Moon mission.
The first crewed flight that was meant to test going into orbit was Apollo 1 in 1967. But disaster struck during a test when fire swept through the command module and killed three astronauts. Manned space flights were suspended for months. During the Apollo 11 mission itself, there were communications issues with ground control. And an alarm message sounded on the computer which the crew had never heard before. The lunar module also ended up touching down away from the original target area. But despite all these problems, six hours after landing, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to successfully land and walk on an extraterrestrial object, the Moon. This put the Americans steps ahead of the Soviets.
Although it is said that the space race got over in 1969 when the USA landed on the moon, the Soviets still attempted to land a lunar pad but failed. Soon after their programs shut down and many secret projects surfaced. They even declined ever wanting to go to the moon, until 1989. An article posted by The Times says that The Soviets had finally admitted that the USA had won the space race.
During 1989 and 1990, the Berlin Wall came down, borders opened, and free elections ousted Communist regimes everywhere in eastern Europe. Later in 1991, the Soviet Union itself dissolved into its component republics. Soon after the Iron Curtain was lifted and the Cold War came to an end.
The cold war might have come to an end, but the space race still exists. Although this time more than two countries are involved.
Featured Image Courtesy – The Economist