The Space Race Essay
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The Space Race was a competition between the Soviet Union and the United States for supremacy in space. From 1955 until 1975, both sides battled it out to be the leader in the competition. Fueled by the Cold War and other causes of the beginning of the race, the Soviet Union and the United States fought for authority in a very public manner through the media. There were many achievements at this time and it led the way for many great things to come afterwards.
The origins of the Space Race can be found in Germany in the 1930s. During World War II, Nazi Germany was researching and building operational ballistic missiles and experimenting with liquid-fueled rockets. As early as 1942 and 1943, the rocket Aggregate-4 became the first vehicle…show more content…
Here, Korolev reverse engineered the A-4 and built his own version, the R-1 in 1948. While this was going on in the Soviet Union, the United States sent von Braun and his team to the United States Army’s White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico in 1945. Here, they assembled captured V-2s and launched them. In 1950, they were moved to the Army’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama where the Army’s first operational medium-range ballistic missile, the Redstone Rocket, was developed. Because of the threat of the nuclear weapons and communism, the Cold War developed after World War II between the Soviet Union and the United States. This led to the expressed conflict through military coalitions, strategic conventional force deployments, extensive aid to the states deemed vulnerable, proxy wars, espionage, propaganda, a nuclear arms race, and economical and technological competitions, such as the Space Race.
In 1955 both the Soviet Union and the United States were building ballistic missiles that could be used to launch objects into space. This became the starting line for the race into space. Four days apart in unrelated announcements, both the Soviets and the Americans announced their plans to launch artificial Earth satellite by 1957 or 1958. On 29 July 1955, James C. Hagerty, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s press secretary,
During the launch of Sputnik, the United States decided to no longer compete with the Soviet Union via military means, but instead, have a race to see who could put man on the moon first. The transition between the Cold War and the Space Race was mostly focused on how missiles and satellites were used. From being used as nuclear warheads to being used for advancing technology, satellites played a key role in the space race. These were key because they were the trial and error “test runs”, and the more test runs a country had, the more progress was made, the more progress that has made meant being closer to putting a man on the moon. Sputnik was launched into orbit on October 4th, 1957. It was visible all around the world, and its radio pulses were detectable.This sent fear throughout the United States as they believed a device of Sputnik’s capabilities was capable of weapon based operations. Today both the United States and Russia have focused much less on space exploration, though it is evident there are still tensions between the two. Relating to that rivalry between the two countries, Russia has started funding their space program again, while the United States has cut their funding towards NASA. Recently Russia has been doing things against other country’s requests. This has reignited a competition between the United States and Russia as global superpowers, who aren’t enemies, but surely are not “allies”. This is important because it means two superpowers may be in a competition by non-military means again, leaving another space race as a definite possibility. The great thing about space exploration is it doesn’t just better a single country, but every country, most Russian and American scientists studying space travel don’t care what country they are researching for, as long as they make progress. The questions left to answer are how will Russia react to the United States if another Space Race is to come, and how technology will continue to advance.
The launching of the Sputnik satellite during the Cold War caused tensions to rise between the Soviet Union and the United States through policy changes, as the Sputnik launch caused paranoia and this caused the United States to create policies such as the Limited Test Ban and containment policy, which then led to the Space Race, and even though the Space Race has ended, the tensions from that era are still present today in the form of Russia ignoring the United States requests to not invade Ukraine.Through the examination of the Sputnik launch, context of the containment policy, comparison of the Soviet Union then and Russia now, and the care the United States government has for NASA, one can see the effects of the Space Race and how they are still present in todays world.
In the wake of the sputnik launch of ’57 many political thinkers were trying to understand the broader implications of Soviet space supremacy. One such political scientist was Klaus Knorr who writes an article to address the fears generated by this Soviet advance. In his 1960 publication in World Politics he makes accurate predictions about the future of the cold war that both hold true and indicate the problems that these changes outline (Knorr, 568). His first prediction is the effort on the part of the U.S government to increase the amount of, “special resources (e.g., scientists)… with a competitive vigor similar to that shaping recent defense programs”(Knorr, 570). Not only was this prediction completely accurate to the U.S policies that were later implemented but this also shows the lack of U.S. prioritization of nonmilitary scientific programs until this point. Another prediction that Knorr makes is in relation to the greater implications of a “space race”. He asserts that it will be, “difficult… to separate outer space research and development from military research and development”, thus exemplifying the concern of how space and rocket technologies reflect the military technology of a specific country. Essentially, the more advanced the technological achievements are of one country, the more military achievements could be made in secret.
In the beginning of his presidency at the end of WWII President Truman advocated his doctrine of the containment of the soviet communist threat. Containment showed itself in a significant amount of U.S foreign policy from the Korean War to the war in Vietnam. Specifically, containment influenced and fueled the policies of the space race. The U.S would have been more ambivalent to soviet advances like Sputnik if it did not have to adhere to this policy of stopping the expansion of the Soviet Union at all costs(Roberts, 38). This was to act as a fail safe. If the United States were not able to beat the Soviet Union to the moon, at least they were already working on getting communism out of other countries before more would join the communist side, because of their superiority of reaching the moon first. The publication Foreign Policy addressed the policy of Containment in a more retrospective way in the summer of 1972. It speaks to the enormous ability of the U.S to impede Soviet expansion and essentially goes into depth on how effective this policy was at what it set out to do. Another policy implemented from these events was the “Test Ban Treaty” (Roberts, 43). The TBT was a treaty developed when long range rockets were being tested for space flight. Aware that the other country could arm one of these rockets with nuclear weapons developed from WW2, they agreed on a treaty to focus on a non-weaponized competition. Though a lot of the focus of containment was on geo-political relationships, the idea still significantly influenced America to put its space program in the forefront.
A writer for CNN, Laura Spark, wrote an article describing current events regarding NASA and Russia’s relationship with the United States. Spark says in the article that the United States may as well stop funding NASA from the support they have been showing for space exploration (Spark, 4). Over the years, as NASA has slowly but surely continued towards space exploration, the United States has been giving less and less support to NASA. Recently the United States has been shipping money to Russia to continue space exploration in the name of NASA. Instead of creating jobs in the United States, they give money to Russia, which the united states is against right now due to the Crimea crisis.
Roger Launius is a writer who took an in depth look at the United States spending for NASA compared to previous years, and where they would be now had they gotten the appropriate funding. Launius describes how NASA has become underfunded since it’s high point of the moon landing back in 1969. Back when the United States was in a Space Race with the Soviet Union, roughly $25.4 billion (about $125 billion in 2009 dollars) was spent, with the only rival in terms of project size being the building of the Panama Canal. Launius mentions how the launch control centers are now used for storage, and old launch sites have since been taken apart for parts, and abandoned. When the space race was first initiated, the first 15 years were the strongest ones. The United States even emphasized a “civil space program with several major components”(Launius, 19). Because of all this space race focused work, the “space agency’s annual budget increased from $500 million in1960 to a high point of %5.2 billion in 1965.” As Launius says, “NASA’s budget declined from 1966 to 1975. Then, in 1976, NASA’s budget took a hit that forced the cancellation of Apollo missions 18-20”. If the budget had stayed about the same as it did in 1965, then in 2008 the $2 trillion federal budget would have meant NASA was funded with more than $75 billion, instead of the $18.4 billion they were actually given.
Because of the constant decline in government funding, NASA (As mentioned before) as closed down many branches and started taking apart old projects for resources to use on current projects. NASA was even put in the position of having to decide whether or not to dismantle the Apollo 1 space craft. In the end NASA decided to leave the Apollo 1 in the Langley research center. Eventually the research center shut down, and Apollo 1 remains there to this day, not on display, and not in any means of being preserved (Launius, 22). Launius also talks about how because of the continuation of losing many NASA related artifacts, there should be a public awareness of how much NASA is being funded and how space related research is at an all time low.
Many technological advances were because of the space race. The “space race” was a competition between the Soviet Union and the United States to see who could be more successful in terms of space exploration. Vladimir Putkov talked about the space race and what Russia’s plans are for space exploration at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research in 2007. He mentions that “[in]1969, development of the first Soviet meteorological system began with the Meteor series of satellites.” (Putkov, 38). The Meteor series of satellites were the beginning of “common satellites” which we use today to forecast weather, broadcast tv, etc. (Putkov, 39). Putkov goes on to explain how, because of the space race, and developments made during that time, we now live in a world where technology(telecommunications, navigation, and other things regarding information provided by remote sensing) is necessary in everyday life.
Another member who spoke at the conference was Sergey Basanov. Sergey talks about the Outer Space Treaty. The Outer Space Treaty was a treaty made in 1967, but still remains as an outstanding and very progressive treaty (Basanov, 51). The OST laid legal foundations for a wide range of activities in a new, limitless environment, and at a time when comparatively little was known about it. The OST was concluded four decades ago, when the political, military and scientific landscape was very much different from what we see today (Basanov, 52). Another important thing Sergey talked about was how the Space Race was compared to the Cold War, in the sense of it was a fierce competition for supremacy between the two superpowers. When he talks about two superpowers competing (like Russia and the United States) he says “[after the Cuban Missile Crisis] such a competition could not be allowed to get out of control” in reference to another space race like competition.
This is how the United States reacted to the Sputnik launch, and how the action’s consequences are still around today. From the implementation of both Containment and the Test Ban Treaty to Russia’s lack of interest of the United States requests, both events are related to the Moon landing. All in all, the one last thing to hope for is another competition with Russia by a non weaponized agreement and letting the scientific community flourish once again.
Knorr, Klaus. “On the International Implications of Outer Space.” World Politics Vol. 12, No. 4 (1960): 564-68.
Launius, Roger D. “Abandoned in Place: Interpreting the U.S. Material Culture of the Moon Race.” The Public Historian Vol. 31, No. 3 (2009): 9-38.
Roberts, Chalmers M. “How Containment Worked.” Foreign Policy No. 7 (1972): 41-53.
Smith-Spark, Laura. “US to End Most Activities with Russia.” CNN. Last modified April 4th, 2014. http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/03/us/us-russia-relations-nasa/
“Sputnik.” n.d. http://www.vibrationdata.com/Sputnik.htm
United Nations, Celebrating the Space Age: 50 Years of Space Technology, 40 Years of Outer Space Treaty (Geneva: United Nations, 2007), 37-57.
Be Proud Soviet Man, for you discovered the way to the stars, 1962,
Replica of Sputnik, 2003, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Race#mediaviewer/File:Sputnik_asm.jpg
Space Race, n.d., http://davidsspacerace.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/5/9/20592902/header_images/1369939418.jpg
We were born to make the fairy tale come true!, 1960, http://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s–VRDvHa0l–/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/18yebx4d6bxsgjpg.jpg