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In the late 1950s, during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a battle of space technology, known as the Space Race.
See the fact file below for more information on the Space Race or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Space Race worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Following the forced surrender of Japan brought about by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the superpowers of the U.S. and Soviet Union became more concerned about the possibility of nuclear war.
- As a result, both nations engaged in an arms race where they competed for supremacy in the quantity and quality of weapons.
- The USSR and the U.S. feared the possibility of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), a military doctrine which states that there is no opportunity for a peace agreement in a nuclear war. Hence, Nuclear Arms Control Treaties were continuously signed.
- With the arms race between the U.S. and USSR, both countries began to develop Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or ICBMs, which were designed to reach long-range targets as far away as 3,500 miles.
- The arms race also led other nations, including Great Britain, France, and the People’s Republic of China to build and stockpile their own nuclear weapons.
- In the mid-1950s until the early 1960s, tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States continued with the Space Race, construction of the Berlin Wall, and crises in Cuba, Korea, and Vietnam.
SOVIET SPUTNIK AND AMERICAN APOLLO
- On October 4, 1957, the USSR’s Sputnik, Russian for “traveler,” became the first artificial (manmade) satellite to reach the orbit of the Earth. Sputnik’s launch was a shock for most Americans. It was unexpected, thus exposing the next frontier of exploration. Such activity threatened the United States with possible nuclear warhead and intelligence information gathering from space.
- In response, the United States Army launched Explorer I, an American satellite, in 1958. For further space exploration, President Dwight Eisenhower created NASA or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
- Moreover, President Eisenhower established two security- oriented space programs under the U.S. Air Force and the CIA.
- In 1959, the Soviets launched Luna 2 which targeted the moon. Two years later, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin set a record by being the first man to orbit the Earth.
- The Americans responded through Project Mercury which sent chimpanzees into space in a capsule-shaped craft.
- On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space.
- On May 25, 1961, at the height of the Cold War, U.S. President John F. Kennedy declared a national goal of sending man to the moon at the Congress joint session. Kennedy’s decision was because of Soviet success in sending cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space in April, 1961. He specifically wanted to catch up to and overtake the Soviet Union in what we know today as the Space Race.
- Several NASA projects like Mercury, Gemini and Apollo were developed to realize Kennedy’s vision.
- By September 12, 1962, JFK delivered his famous quote, “We choose to go to the Moon” in front of a large crowd at Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas.
- JFK specifically tasked Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson to oversee the project of the National Aeronautics and Space Council.
- After Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, the idea of a joint moon landing was abandoned, but NASA’s Apollo mission became a memorial for him.
- Apollo 11 was the fifth manned mission under the Apollo program.
- On July 16, 1969, three American astronauts, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, left the Kennedy Space Center in Houston, Florida, to fulfill NASA’s Apollo 11 mission and JFK’s vision. They traveled 240,000 miles for three days to reach the moon’s lunar orbit.
- The success of Apollo 11 established the United States’ national and international dominance over rival countries. It also demonstrated the economic, political, and technological virtuosity of Americans. Lastly, such achievement opened up possibilities for further aerospace exploration.
- Between 1969 and 1972, the Soviets failed in four of its moon missions.
- The Space Race was highly coveted in television. Astronauts in the United States and cosmonauts in the USSR were seen as national heroes.
- The momentous ‘handshake in space’ between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts in the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975 marked the gradual refinement of the American-Soviet relations.
Space Race Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Space Race across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Space Race worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Space Race. In the late 1950s, during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a battle of space technology, known as the Space Race.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Cold War: Space Race Facts
- Things in Space
- First Man in Space
- Apollo 11 Mission
- Space Race Log
- JFK and Space
- Cold War Facts
- Moon Landing
- Space Race Vocabulary
- Tragedies of Space Race
- End of the Race
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Link will appear as Space Race Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, September 4, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.