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Lesson Plan

Explore the Space Race With The New York Times’s Archive

In this extended lesson plan, students will use the Times archive to explore the questions: What was the space race? Who won it? And why did it matter? Then they will connect the past to the current competition for space.

research papers on space race

By Jeremy Engle

Fifty-two years ago, the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon — the culmination of a decade-long “space race” between the United States and the Soviet Union — widely regarded as one of humanity’s greatest achievements. Today, there is a different kind of race being run, as private companies compete to take ordinary citizens to space, the moon, Mars and beyond.

In this lesson, students will look closely at original Times reporting on the space race and explore the questions: What was the space race? Who won it? And why does it still matter?

We begin with a short quiz on the space race as a warm-up activity and later offer several creative options for students to apply and extend what they learned from the Times archives, such as creating a children’s book for “hidden figures” of the space program and curating a museum exhibition. Finally, we invite students to connect the lessons of the past to our current era of space exploration and debate whether we should still be seeking out new adventures in outer space.

What's Included in This Resource

Explore the times archive, discover hidden figures, unsung heroes and overlooked stories, assess the legacy and lessons of the space race, connect the space race to the present.

Part I: What do you know about the space race?

Have you ever dreamed of traveling to space? Do you think you will ever live on another planet?

Today, private companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are vying for supremacy to make space tourism a reality. But over 60 years ago, a space race began between the two most powerful nations on earth.

What do you know about the space race? Who won, how and why? And what were its consequences?

OK … pop quiz on the space race. (Don’t worry: It’s not graded!)

1. Many historians date the beginning of the space race to Oct. 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched a ________.

a) giant slingshot that grazed the moon b) jet-propulsion plane that broke the sound barrier called the Khrushchev c) supersonic missile called Red Dawn d) the world’s first artificial satellite named Sputnik

2. The moon is roughly ______ miles away from Earth.

a) 1,000 b) 23,890 c) 100,000 d) 238,900

3. Which of the following animals have been in space?

a) Jellyfish b) Chimpanzee c) Pig d) Dog e) All of the above

4. What were the Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous words as he stepped on to the surface of the moon?

a) “So cool!” b) “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” c) “To infinity and beyond!” d) “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”

5. The footprint on the moon left by the Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin (pictured above) will last for how long?

a) Just a few more months b) 10 years c) One hundred thousand years d) Tens of millions of years

So, how did you do on the quiz? ( See the answer key at the bottom of the lesson. ) Congrats if you impressed yourself! But don’t worry if you didn’t ace it; there will be more chances to learn fascinating information and stories about the quest to reach the moon.

What questions do you have about the space race? What do you want to know more about?

Part 2: Watch a short video on the origins of the space race.

Next, watch this six-minute video segment from “ Chasing the Moon: American Experience, ” by PBS, on the origins of the space race and how it grew out of the Cold War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Then, consider the following prompts in writing or in discussion with a partner:

What are three things you learned about the space race?

What are two new questions you have about the space race?

How did the space race escalate the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union? What role did fear and propaganda play in the quest for supremacy in space?

The space race began in 1957 with the Soviet Union’s surprise launch of Sputnik, the first-ever artificial satellite sent into space — opening a new front in the Cold War for the two world superpowers. After a Soviet cosmonaut became the first person to orbit Earth on April 12, 1961, the newly elected President John F. Kennedy committed the United States to the ambitious goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

With the moon landing on July 20, 1969, America effectively “won” the space race that began with Sputnik’s launch 12 years earlier. But public interest in the space program soon waned. By the end of 1972, the last of the 12 men to walk on the moon had returned home, and no one has been there since.

Below, we provide links to 24 original articles from Times coverage of the space race from 1957-1975. Scan the entire archive collection and read the title and summary for each article. Then, working individually or as a research team, choose at least ONE article from each of the THREE sections to read. As you conduct your research, consider the following questions:

Essential Questions

What was the space race? How did it come about, and what were its goals? What fears and interests motivated the two competitors, the United States and the Soviet Union? What role did prestige and propaganda play for each?

How did the space race from 1957-1975 reflect political, social and economic aspects of the Cold War and the time period? Use archival articles from The Times and your knowledge of the era to develop your response.

What story of the space race emerges from the Times archives? What did you notice about the language and images? What is missing from the narrative? In what ways do you think the coverage itself was accurate, biased or perhaps a form of propaganda?

Timeline Activity: You can also make note of important dates, events and people involved in the space race and then create a visual timeline — either on paper (perhaps using a free downloadable timeline printout ) or using a free online tool, such as TimelineJS or StoryMapJS . Or, if you are in a classroom context, you can create a human timeline . Whichever method you choose, you should be creative and use colors, symbols, images and text to tell the chronological story of the space race.

I: The Space Race Begins: 1957-1960

“ Soviet Fires Earth Satellite Into Space ” (Oct. 5, 1957) The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, into space, shocking the world.

“ President Voices Concern on U.S. Missiles Program, But Not on the Satellite ” (Oct. 10, 1957) Following Sputnik , President Dwight Eisenhower says that he is not worried about a race for space, but announces that the U.S. will launch its own satellite by the end of the year. “ Soviet Fires New Satellite, Carrying Dog ” (Nov. 3, 1957) The Soviet Union surprises the world again and launches Sputnik 2, another satellite, but this one with a passenger: a dog named Laika. “ Scientists Wonder if Shot Nears Moon ” (Nov. 5, 1957) The growing fears in America and across the globe are captured in this article that describes how scientists speculated that a Soviet rocket might be en route to strike the moon with a hydrogen bomb in the midst of its eclipse.

“ Science Teaching In Depth Is Urged ” (Nov. 8, 1957) A U.S. senator warns that our country must develop science education “in depth” within the next 10 years or face extinction by world communism.

“ Vanguard Rocket Burns on Beach; Failure to Launch Test Satellite Assailed as Blow to U.S. Prestige ” (Dec. 7, 1957) America’s first attempt to catch up to the Soviets and launch a satellite fails spectacularly.

“ Army Launches U.S. Satellite Into Orbit ” (Feb. 1, 1958) On its third attempt, the U.S. successfully launches a satellite into space.

“ Soviet Rocket Hits Moon After 35 Hours ” (Sept. 14, 1959) A Soviet space probe, Luna 2, is the first human-made object to reach the moon.

II. The Space Race Accelerates: 1961-1967

“ Soviet Orbits Man and Recovers Him; Space Pioneer Reports: ‘I Feel Well’ Messages Sent While Circling the Earth ” (April 12, 1961) The Soviet Union sends Yuri Gagarin into space, marking the first human spaceflight. “ U.S. Hurls Man 115 Miles Into Space ” (May 6, 1961) Alan Shepard becomes the first American astronaut in space. “ Kennedy Asks 1.8 Billion This Year to Accelerate Space Exploration, Add Foreign Aid, Bolster Defense ” (May 26, 1961) President Kennedy announces the goal of reaching the moon by the end of the decade. “ Glenn Orbits Earth 3 Times Safely ” (Feb. 21, 1962) John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth — an achievement celebrated with parades across the country. “ First Woman in Space ” (June 17, 1963) The Soviets send Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova into space.

“ Russian Floats In Space for 10 Minutes ” (March 19, 1965) The Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov takes the first spacewalk. Russia says a moon trip is the “target now.”

“ The Space Race ” (March 19, 1965) Editorial: Following the first spacewalk, The Times calls for the U.S.-U.S.S.R. to replace competition in space with cooperation.

“ 3 Apollo Astronauts Die in Fire ” (Jan. 28, 1967) A launchpad fire kills the entire crew of Apollo 1.

III: The Finish Line: 1968-1975

“ Astronauts Examine ‘Vast, Lonely’ Place ” (Dec. 25, 1968) The Apollo 8 voyage is the first time that humans orbit the moon. “Earthrise,” a photograph from the mission awes the world.

“ Nationalism Is Obsolete in Outer Space ” (May 16, 1969) A Times Op-Ed on the failure of the U.S. and U.S.S.R. to use accomplishments in space as a means of unifying mankind. “ Men Walk on Moon ” (July 21, 1969) Apollo 11: The first moon landing. Millions across the globe watch the historic achievement.

“ From Coast to Coast: A Joyous Welcome for Astronauts ” (Aug. 14, 1969) Parades across the country celebrate the heroes of Apollo 11 — Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

“ Plight of 3 Crewmen Stirs World Interest and Prayer ” (April 15, 1970) An oxygen tank leak puts the flight of Apollo 13 and lives of its astronauts in peril.

“ Apollo 17 Splashes Down Accurately in Successful Finale to Moon Project ” (Dec. 20, 1972) The final Apollo mission to the moon.

“ Astronauts Back, Weak and Wobbly ” (June 23, 1973) The Skylab 1 astronauts, weak and wobbly and suffering some dizziness, returned to Earth after a record 28 days aboard the nation’s first orbiting space station. “ U.S. and Soviet Astronauts Unite Ships and Then Join in Historic Handshakes ” (July 18, 1975) The Apollo-Soyez Project is the first crewed international space mission, carried out jointly by the United States and the Soviet Union.

If you have more time, we encourage you to do your own research in the Times archives using “Space,” “NASA,” “Apollo Mission” and “Moon” as search terms, and October 1957 to Dec. 31, 1975, as a date range.

Almost Famous: The Lost Astronaut

In 1963, ed dwight jr. was poised to be nasa’s first african-american astronaut. until suddenly he wasn’t..

A monument is an ideal. A memorial is a memorial of something that really happened in life. I could have been the first black guy in space. Was that my fate that I’ll be remembered for that, for something that I didn’t do? Think about that one. How the hell do you get famous for something you didn’t do? There rest burdens heavier than have rested on the shoulders of any president since the time of Lincoln. In the ’60s, there was a lot of tension, an incredible amount of tension. In 1959, the first seven astronauts were appointed by Eisenhower, seven guys that become immortal by proclamation only. The way the story goes, the Kennedy White House said, we’ll satisfy our black community by making a black astronaut. One black guy on a Wheaties box. O.K., but how do you make an astronaut? I was born in Kansas City in 1933. I wanted to be an artist. My dad said, “No, no, no, no. You’re going to go to engineering school. You’re going to be an engineer.” All the pilots, the good pilots, the aces, they all grew up on farms. Every one of them. We lived on a farm. And the Fairfax airport was within walking distance. I didn’t know where these airplanes had been when they came and landed. And I didn’t know where the hell they were going when they took off. But it had to be exciting. I did get the flying bug. I was down there every day. I became their mascot. I’d hang out in the maintenance shacks. And I’d hand the guys the tools. And after a while, I said, “Why don’t you just take me up?” [AIRCRAFT ENGINE BUZZING] Immediately, when you can see past the horizon, you say, oh, my god. All of a sudden, your world expands to this bigger and bigger and bigger space. That whole expanse of stuff, you get even more curious about it. Why were we here? And what part do we play? And what, if anything, can we do about it? I was probably 18. And I had a paper route for the white newspaper. And I had a paper route for the black newspaper. On the front page of my black newspaper was a black jet pilot standing on the wing of an F-86 Saber jet. My world about exploded. Oh, my god, they’re letting black folks fly airplanes. I almost stopped throwing papers that minute. I went straight to the Air Force recruiting office. By the time I got to be upper class, I had all these stripes on my arm. I had my own office. I was an officer all the way through the whole thing. And lo and behold, I get this letter, all the Pentagon trapping, all this stuff on it. Direction of the president, opportunity to be an astronaut. So I took it to my boss and he said, “Tear it up. You don’t want any part of that, man. They’re going to make hamburger out of you down there, buddy. Ed, stick with us. You’ve got a career. You’re going to be a general. You have a family here. So leave it alone.” But my curiosity overwhelmed me. So I secretly sent all my information in. And within days, days, not weeks, months, years, I got an assignment to go to Edwards Air Force Base for me to enter experimental test pilot school. I was a Kennedy boy. That’s the term they used, Kennedy boy. I knew full well when I got on the base that it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. It seems like every street at Edwards Air Force Base is named after a dead test pilot. Every time I strapped that airplane on my behind, I don’t know whether I’m coming back. And on top of that, I was told, Chuck Yeager, the guy that was running the whole damn school, had called the students and the instructor staff into the auditorium and said, here’s our plan. Don’t talk to him. Don’t socialize with him. Don’t drink with him. Don’t invite him to your parties. Just ignore him like he doesn’t exist. And in six months, he’ll be gone, because that’ll psychologically break him. He’ll quit. And so they set about doing that. That’s Chuck Yeager. My dad had issues in his work world. Whether you’re a baseball star like he was or whatever you did, I mean, you still suffer the ravages of prejudice. And he would go on these rants. “All white men are the worst people in the world and they’ll stab you in the back.” But my mother had the last word. “Don’t pay any attention to what your dad said. All people are equal.” And those were the last words I heard every day until I was 18 years old. You can teach your brain to help you, or you can teach your brain to destroy you. And your brain will react to what it’s been told. Every day of my life, my mother told me how much she loved me and how I could do anything in the universe. I don’t care what it was, you have the ability to do that, as long as you’re prepared for it. That removed any other force coming into my space plane. But if I had all this other trash running around in my head, I wouldn’t be able to do any of that kind of stuff. They were announcing names to go into the second phase of it. And of course, that next level moved you on to NASA, which was the third thing. Just graduated from test pilot school and we were all vying for a spot. So guess who’s not quitting? Captain Ed Dwight. 29-year-old Negro says he is anxious to go into space. He’s Captain Edward Dwight of the Air Force, selected to be an astronaut, the first of his race to be so designated. Captain Dwight and his family got the news at their home at Edwards Air Force Base in California. And of course, that was hot news, I mean, really, really hot news. Place was packed. The press came out from D.C. Cameras were everywhere. All these photographers on me. And they have one cover all the rest of them. Immediately, I was getting 1,500 fan mails a day. And I was on the cover of all these magazines around the world. See, I was being handled out of the White House. So everywhere I went, I was bombarded with it. So there was a lot of unhappy people about this. There’s a black guy that can do this? Oh, god, you’ve got to be kidding me. Kennedy boy, Kennedy boy. All that nonsense, couldn’t give it a parking space in my brain. We were in bioastronautics training at Brooks. They were trying to figure out how far they could take a person and break them. They did everything they could possibly do. They’d stick needles in your head and then introduce these waves. Centrifuge training, a lot of guys couldn’t handle that. They’d take you up to 15 g’s. Of course, your tear ducts close and the tears creep over to here. And they’re like bullets when they hit your ears, that thing is so fast. God, I just ate that up. I really enjoyed it. It was just absolutely fabulous. The happy ending of this thing would be going into space. [ROCKET ENGINES BOOMING] O.K., I guess you all know why you’re here today and why we’re here. We’d like to introduce the new group of 14 astronauts who we’ve been in the process of selecting for about the last four months. [APPLAUSE] Was there a Negro boy in the last 30 or so that you brought here for consideration? No, there was not. They were announcing a new group of astronauts and I wasn’t in that group. A month or so later, Kennedy has been assassinated. Are you now in fact completely out of the astronaut program? Why aren’t you an astronaut? Do you feel that what’s happened to you was a setback for civil rights opportunities in this country? I would rather not comment on that. I resigned in ’66, loaded my Volkswagen to the brim and drove off the base. You know, god, I start getting emotional. [CHUCKLES] I mean, that was tough. Next question. [SLOW STRING MUSIC] If I just receded into nothingness, it would have been all well and good with everybody else, because that’s how things are supposed to happen. I would have loved going into space, you know, had this thing all worked out that way. That choice was snatched away from me. So why bother about it, you know? I have to attribute that to some kind of fate. Well, maybe there’s some more work for me to do. Maybe my fate was I had to bring the African-American story to the public venue. [SLOW STRING MUSIC] And so I started building things, making things. 129. I’ve completed 129 memorials since I’ve done this and over 18,000 gallery pieces. A monument is an ideal. But a memorial is a memorial of something that really happened in life. How do you go from slavery to freedom and accomplishment? What happened? Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Dr. King, B.B. King, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, step by step by step by step. Guion Bluford. First African-American in space.

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Over 400,000 people worked directly or indirectly with NASA during the decade-long race to put a person on the moon — yet, most of those people and their efforts remain unknown, overlooked or forgotten.

Below, we provide links to nine Times articles reporting on those who have often been left out of the larger narrative of the space race. Choose one or more articles to read, and then consider the following questions:

Why do you think certain perspectives and stories are missing from the space race story?

Which stories of unsung heroes were most interesting, surprising or affecting to you and why?

Why is it important to learn about the stories of those people behind the scenes or often overlooked?

Profile Activity: You can also imagine you have been asked to help create a comic or children’s book about an inspiring but overlooked space race pioneer to help educate young people. Which aspects of their life, story and achievements would you highlight? What impact would you hope your book would make? You can find free children’s bookmaking apps here or here and free comic book apps here and here .

Times Resources

“ To Make It to the Moon, Women Have to Escape Earth’s Gender Bias ” (July 17, 2019) The Apollo program was designed by men, for men. But NASA can learn from its failures as it aims to send women to the moon and beyond.

“ Five Women Who Made the Moon Landing Possible ” (July 23, 2019) That “giant leap for mankind” happened thanks to plenty of women.

“ On Being a Black Female Math Whiz During the Space Race ” (Sept. 5, 2016) Former NASA mathematicians discuss the matter-of-fact way they approached their work and the history about their careers in the book “Hidden Figures.”

“ Katherine Johnson Dies at 101; Mathematician Broke Barriers at NASA ” (Feb. 24, 2020) She was one of a group of Black women mathematicians at NASA and its predecessor who were celebrated in the 2016 movie “Hidden Figures.”

“ Here Are the 18 African-American Astronauts ” (July 16, 2019) It was 22 years after Alan Shepard’s first space trip that the U.S. sent a person of color up.

“ For Apollo 11 He Wasn’t on the Moon. But His Coffee Was Warm. ” (July 16, 2019) Michael Collins kept an orbital vigil during Neil’s and Buzz’s moonwalk, but he really didn’t feel that lonely.

“ Ed Dwight Was Set to Be the First Black Astronaut. Here’s Why That Never Happened. ” (July 16, 2019) For a brief moment, the civil rights movement and the space race came together.

“ Two Magical Places That Sent Apollo 11 to the Moon and Back ” (July 13, 2019) They’ve nearly vanished, but hubs in Southern California and on Long Island played key roles in the lunar race.

“ Not Everyone Wanted a Man on the Moon ” (July 16, 2019) Protesters in the late ’60s and early ’70s pushed for spending at home on the same multibillion-dollar scale as the moon race.

Earthrise: 50 Years Since Apollo 8

On christmas eve, 1968, astronauts orbiting the moon saw earth rising for the first time..

Fifty years ago, the mightiest rocket ever built rolled out to its launch pad at Cape Kennedy. On the 21st of December, 1968, three men climbed on board for the first voyage to the moon. Before Apollo 8, no human had ever left Earth orbit. Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and William Anders became the first men to see the whole Earth from space. They send back grainy footage of Earth to televisions back home. “This transmission is coming to you approximately halfway between the moon and the Earth.” In the first broadcast, the Earth was a ghostly sphere, devoid of detail. But in their second transmission, a recognizable Earth wreathed in clouds drifted in and out of view. Their mission was to fly a figure 8 pattern out to the moon, orbit it 10 times and return safely home. But safety and success were not certain. Russian tortoises had survived a flight around the moon and back only three months before, and cosmonauts were rumored to be next. The astronauts worked hard and slept little. And on Christmas Eve, they arrived at the moon. They had only 10 orbits, about 20 hours, to photograph the moon and scout future landing sites. For its first three orbits, the spacecraft was flying backward with its windows angled down toward the surface. On the fourth orbit, Borman rolled the capsule to face forward, just as Earth was rising over the horizon. Anders: “Oh my God! Look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!” Borman: “Hey, don’t take that, it’s not scheduled.” [chuckles] Anders snapped the first image of Earth taken by humans at the moon. But it was black and white. Anders: “You got a color film, Jim? Hand me a roll of color, quick ...” Lovell: “Oh man, that’s great! Where is it?” Anders: “Quick!” Earthrise. Seen for the first time by human eyes. Earthrise wasn’t the first image of Earth from the moon. NASA’s Lunar Orbiter I turned to watch the Earth set in 1966. A year later, Lunar Orbiter IV caught the double crescent of the moon and the distant Earth. Of all these images, Earthrise is by far the most famous. It took a human behind the camera for humanity to see our world again and know it for the first time. Other Earthrises would follow, as men returned to orbit and walk on the moon. Lovell: “The vast loneliness up here of the moon is awe inspiring and it makes you realize just what you have back there on Earth. The Earth from here is a grand oasis in the big vastness of space.” A few hours after Earthrise, the Apollo 8 crew ended a Christmas Eve broadcast by reading from Genesis. Borman: “... And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters called He Seas; and God saw that it was good. And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.” The Apollo 8 astronauts didn’t yet know that their greatest legacy would be a photograph. The round Earth and its thin film of life, suspended in the blackness of space. Like them, we have seen Spaceship Earth. And 50 years later we are still learning to fly and preserve it.

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The Times Opinion columnist Ross Douthat wrote that “what Apollo represents is not goodness but greatness, not moral progress but magnificence, a sublime example of human daring that our civilization hasn’t matched since.”

However, the Times Science reporter Dennis Overbye wrote : “Having beaten the Russians, we left the moon as awkwardly and cynically as we had embraced it a decade earlier. No goodbyes. No infrastructure, like bases or orbiting stations. Nothing to provide an easy way back. We ghosted it.”

Below, we provide links to seven Times articles and Opinion pieces that assess the legacy and lessons of the space race. Choose one or more stories to read, and then consider the following questions:

What is the lasting legacy of the space race? Who or what was really won? Was the space program worth the cost — in effort, money and in lives? Was it largely a propaganda victory for the United States? Or should the moon landing be viewed as one of humanity’s greatest achievements?

What impact did the space race have on the Cold War and beyond? What role did it have on today’s landscape — from STEM education and technology to national security and the environmental movement?

What can we learn from the triumphs and mistakes of the space race? What life lessons can the era’s brave and pioneering astronauts teach us?

Museum Exhibition Activity: Working individually, in teams or as a whole class, you can also curate a space race museum exhibition. What events, people, themes and artifacts would you include? What stories would you emphasize? What would you hope audiences would learn? For tips on creating a classroom museum, read Creating a Student-Run Museum in Your Classroom from Edutopia.

“ ‘Look Up! Sputnik!’ 60 Years Later ” (Oct. 3, 2017 — Opinion) In 1957, the Soviets launched the world’s first artificial satellite into orbit — and a Cold War space race they would eventually lose.

“ With Fear and Wonder in Its Wake, Sputnik Lifted Us Into the Future ” (Sept. 25, 2007) After Sputnik, nothing would ever be quite the same again — in geopolitics, in science and technology, in everyday life and the capacity of the human species.

“ Sputnik’s Legacy Behind the Iron Curtain ” (Oct. 9, 2007 — Opinion) Sputnik opened for the Russian people a long-term race for fundamental education and scientific knowledge.

“ How the Space Station Became a Base to Launch Humanity’s Future ” (Nov. 2, 2020) Once derided as a poster child for government waste, the outpost in orbit is now seen as a linchpin for future economic activity in space.

“ Earthrise: 50 Years Since Apollo 8 ” (Dec. 21, 2018 — Video) On Christmas Eve 1968, astronauts orbiting the moon saw Earth rising for the first time.

“ Selling a Mission to Space ” (June 23, 2019 — Video) To launch its lunar landing project, NASA had to find ways to convince the American public that the costly, audacious pursuit was essential. One lasting result: Tang breakfast drink.

“ What My Spacewalk Taught Me About Isolation ” (April 27, 2020 — Video) Feel as if you’re drifting in space? I know what that’s like.

Today, there’s a new space race.

This time it’s not a race to the moon, but to see who will dominate a future space tourism industry — a competition not between nations but between billionaire entrepreneurs and private spaceflight companies.

This summer, the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the British entrepreneur Richard Branson both flew to space in rockets designed by their companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic — although both flights were less than for 11 minutes each.

Then, on Sept. 15, a rocket launched by SpaceX, the company founded by the billionaire Elon Musk, carried the first all-civilian crew on an adventure to orbit the Earth for three days.

Below, we provide links to six Times articles and Opinion pieces that connect current space research and exploration with the space race. Choose one or more stories to read, and then consider the following questions:

How is the competition between Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX — as well as between the entrepreneurs — similar or different from the contest for space supremacy between two rival nations like the United States and the Soviet Union?

What economic, social and political forces, like the Cold War, are shaping the current competition for space?

How important to national or international interests is the new focus on spaceflight? How important is space exploration and development? What should NASA’s role and mission be now? Should nations fight for supremacy of space and other celestial bodies?

Who do you think will “win” this latest race?

Journal Activity: You can also make some personal connections to the space race — past, present and future — by using one or more of the following prompts to inspire your thoughts, reflection and imagination:

Make personal connections: Are you excited by renewed interest in space travel? Are you fascinated by space or have you ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut? Do you think you will ever to travel to space during your lifetime? If you had an opportunity to go anywhere in space, where would you visit? To share your responses to these questions, and to reply to other students, submit a comment on our related Student Opinion prompt .

Apply the lessons from the past : Make the argument for or against the new space race: Is it good for humanity? Or is it doomed to recreate the mistakes of the past? What lessons from the historical space race can we apply today? Should companies and nations still compete for supremacy in space? Should we build a new model of cooperation and collaboration? Or, perhaps, should we invest the money here on Earth? If you have time, you might consider writing an editorial or having a classroom debate .

Make some predictions: Will humans ever live in space? If so, by what year? Do you think that you ever will?

To help you research the new space race you might start by looking at the Times’s Space and Astronomy Topics page or some of these recent stories:

“ A Ride to Space on Virgin Galactic? That’ll Be $450,000, Please. ” (Aug. 5, 2021) The cost of a few minutes of weightlessness for new customers will be much higher than earlier prices, and they may have to wait awhile to fly.

“ Want to Buy a Ticket to the Space Station? NASA Says Soon You Can ” (June 7, 2019) NASA plans to open the International Space Station to commercial business, including tourism. But the tickets won’t be cheap.

“ She Beat Cancer at 10. Now She’s Set to Be the Youngest American in Space .” (Feb. 22, 2021) St. Jude Hospital and Jared Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur, selected Hayley Arceneaux for a trip to orbit in a SpaceX capsule.

“ Why Everyone Wants to Go Back to the Moon ” (July 12, 2019) Something of a new lunar race is underway, but the motivations differ from what put men on its surface 50 years ago.

“ Russia, Once a Space Superpower, Turns to China for Missions ” (June 15, 2021) The two countries have pledged to cooperate on expeditions to the moon and to an asteroid, setting the stage for a new space race with the United States and its partners.

“ How Space Became the Next ‘Great Power’ Contest Between the U.S. and China ” (Jan. 24, 2021) The Biden administration faces not only waves of Chinese antisatellite weapons but also a history of jumbled responses to the intensifying threat.

Space Race Quiz Answers: 1d, 2d, 3e, 4b, 5d

Jeremy Engle joined The Learning Network as a staff editor in 2018 after spending more than 20 years as a classroom humanities and documentary-making teacher, professional developer and curriculum designer working with students and teachers across the country. More about Jeremy Engle

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Politics and the Space Race

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  • Linda Dawson 2  

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Chapters 8, 9, and 10 examine the politics of outer space for three different time periods. This chapter looks at the Space Race and the Cold War. The story of the early rocket pioneers (Werhner von Braun, Sergei Korolev, and Robert Goddard) are woven together to examine how the Space Race was influenced by these brilliant scientists in the midst of international pressures. The story of the tense days of the Cold War is told with an eye on space travel. There is a focus on the American space program, the formulation of NASA, President Kennedy’s speech for landing on the Moon, and the final lunar achievements.

  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Douglas Aircraft Company’s Project RAND (Research and Development)
  • Father of modern rocketry
  • Yuri Gagarin
  • Robert Goddard
  • Helmut Gröttrup
  • Sergei Korolev
  • Hermann Oberth
  • International Geophysical Year (IGY)
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
  • Liquid-fueled rocket
  • Lyndon Johnson
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)
  • Nikita Khrushchev
  • R-7 booster
  • Richard Nixon
  • Saturn V rocket
  • Alan Shepard
  • Vanguard rocket
  • Vostok spacecraft
  • Wernher von Braun

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Dawson, L. (2021). Politics and the Space Race. In: The Politics and Perils of Space Exploration. Springer Praxis Books(). Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56835-1_8

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How the space race launched an era of exploration beyond Earth

Cold war tensions between the united states and the soviet union fuelled a technological sprint to space—which culminated with a historic landing on the moon..

Early Manned Spaceflight

Tensions ran high at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the morning of April 12, 1961, as the Soviet Union prepared to launch the first human into space. Of the 16 previous attempts to propel the U.S.S.R.’s Vostok rocket into orbit, half had failed. Two of the space program’s top engineers reportedly had to take tranquilisers that day as they waited for liftoff at the Kazakh launch site.

But Yuri Gagarin remained calm in the capsule atop the rocket. After months of rigorous physical and technical training, the 27-year-old cosmonaut had been chosen for the historic flight in part for his unflappability. Intelligent, diligent, and well-liked among his comrades, one memo written by Soviet Air Force doctors and obtained by historian Asif Siddiqi noted that Gagarin “understands life better than a lot of his friends.”

At 9:07 a.m., Gagarin called out “ Poyekhali!”— Russian for “Off we go!”—as the rocket lifted off. He narrated his experiences to those on the ground as the rocket’s acceleration to 17,000 miles an hour pushed him back into his seat. “I see the Earth. The g-load is increasing somewhat. I feel excellent, in a good mood. I see the clouds. The landing site ... it's beautiful. What beauty.”

Moments later, the Soviet cosmonaut became the first person in space and, 89 minutes after launch, the first person to orbit the planet. It was a pivotal moment in the space race between the United States and Soviet Union that would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. But it isn’t where the story of human spaceflight truly begins: That trajectory was charted years earlier by another Soviet success.

The space race begins

Despite being allies during World War II, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. grew increasingly suspicious of one another as the war drew to a close in 1945. The U.S. had just demonstrated its ability to destroy entire cities by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force Japan’s surrender. Thus began the Cold War , in which the U.S. and U.S.S.R. jockeyed for world dominance.

To prove their superior technological capabilities, both countries began to build massive nuclear arsenals and rockets capable of hitting targets across the world. In the mid-1950s, both countries announced plans to use these rockets to propel artificial satellites into space. While the U.S. scheduled a 1958 launch for its Project Vanguard, the Soviets quietly resolved to beat the Americans to the punch.

On October 4, 1957, the world was taken by surprise when the Soviet Union announced that it had launched a satellite called Sputnik, Russian for “travelling companion ,” into orbit. Although it was no larger than a beach ball and had limited technical capabilities, Americans were frightened as they heard its radio signature “beep, beep, beep” as it passed overhead.

President Dwight Eisenhower had his own concerns. White House officials fretted over whether the world would see the Soviet Union as the more sophisticated superpower, writing in one report that Sputnik’s launch would “generate myth, legend and enduring superstition of a kind peculiarly difficult to eradicate or modify, which the U.S.S.R. can exploit to its advantage.”

Unwilling to concede space to the Soviet Union, the U.S. established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in July 1958 and began its own pursuit of spaceflight in earnest.

Earliest human flights to space

Human space travel was not a novel concept in the 1950s. The U.S. had been launching rockets with animals — including fruit flies and rhesus macaques —into suborbital space since the late 1940s, while the U.S.S.R. began launching dogs in 1951. Just weeks after Sputnik’s 1957 launch, the Soviets famously sent a dog named Laika into orbit. (Laika died within hours of the flight from heat and stress.)

But the true goal was to send humans to space. In 1958 NASA launched Project Mercury with three specific goals : Launch an American into orbit around Earth, investigate the human body’s ability to tolerate spaceflight, and bring both the spacecraft and astronaut home safety. The unstated goal: Accomplish all of this before the Soviets.

(Related – Into the new ocean: images from America's first human space program.)

Yet once again the U.S.S.R. proved a step ahead. Gagarin’s historic flight took place a month before astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space on May 5, 1961. Although Shepard’s 15-minute suborbital flight aboard Freedom 7 was a key milestone—watched by millions of television viewers—it was overshadowed by Gagarin’s journey all the way around Earth.

Weeks after Shepard’s flight, President John F. Kennedy stood before a joint session of the U.S. Congress. Acknowledging that the country hadn’t treated space exploration with enough urgency, he declared his intention to make it a priority and issued a new challenge : Put an American on the moon by the end of the decade.

“No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” he said. “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon—if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation.”

Reaching for the moon

Before NASA could venture to the moon, however, its scientists and engineers had much to learn. The space agency pushed forward with Project Mercury, making astronaut John Glenn the first American to orbit Earth in February 1962 . In May 1963 Gordon Cooper completed a 22-orbit flight, a journey that took about 34 hours and 20 minutes. A month later, though, cosmonaut Valery Bykovsky spent four days and 23 hours in space— still the record for the longest solo spaceflight —and Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly to space.

After Mercury, NASA advanced its spaceflight capabilities with Project Gemini. Considered a bridge to the moon , Gemini’s goals were to rendezvous and dock in orbit, test atmospheric reentry maneuvers, and determine how longer periods of space travel affected humans.

Meanwhile, the Soviets were still logging milestones. In March 1965 cosmonaut Alexei Leonov became the first person to exit an orbiting spacecraft. Lasting 12 minutes, the spacewalk was particularly harrowing : Leonov’s spacesuit was so rigid he had difficulty reentering the spacecraft and ultimately had to release some of his suit’s pressure to close the airlock behind him.

Ten weeks later Ed White became the first American to walk in space , spending 23 minutes floating at the end of a 25-foot umbilical line while he and astronaut James McDivitt in the Gemini 4 capsule circled Earth at 17,000 miles an hour. After that the U.S. began to gain on the Soviets: In December 1965 the astronauts aboard Gemini 7 set the record for the most time in space during a two-week mission. Gemini 8 achieved the first space docking in 1966—though a malfunction sent the spacecraft spinning out of control, to be narrowly recovered by a 35-year-old Neil Armstrong in the commander’s seat .

After 10 crewed flights in five years, the program ended with Gemini 12 on November 15, 1966—a mission during which Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin logged a record-setting five hours and 30 minutes exploring outside a spacecraft. At last it was time to go to the moon.

Footprints on the moon

As it conducted the Gemini missions, NASA had already begun developing the spacecraft for the Apollo program. The vehicle included a command/service module that would fly to the moon and enter orbit, and a lunar module that would undock for landing and then blast off to rejoin the command module for the return trip to Earth.

But the Apollo program got off to a tragic start . On January 27, 1967, astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee were killed in a fire on the launchpad during a ground test for their planned February mission. An investigation concluded that the fire was sparked by a short circuit in the wires near Grissom’s seat, and that it spread quickly due to high oxygen levels and flammable materials in the cabin.

Following a lengthy reevaluation of the design and safety of the spacecraft, the first crewed Apollo mission launched on October 11, 1968, when Apollo 7 blasted into Earth orbit. On the first of 11 days in space, the three astronauts aboard came down with cold s—learning the hard way that mucus cannot drain from the head in the weightlessness of space.

The mission was followed by the first flight all the way to the moon, more than 230,000 miles away. Before Apollo 8, the farthest humans had been from Earth was about 850 miles. The crew orbited the moon 10 times between December 24 and December 25, reading the opening lines of Genesis to a captivated audience of roughly a billion people —a quarter of the global population—during a Christmas Eve radio broadcast. The three astronauts were the first to see the far side of the moon with their own eyes and watch as Earth rose over the lunar horizon .

Apollo 9 was the first flight with the lunar module, testing the spacecraft in Earth orbit. Apollo 10 took the lunar module to the moon and descended to within 50,000 feet of the surface.

Finally on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off. On the fifth day in space, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin began preparations to land the lunar module Eagle on the moon’s surface. They touched down at precisely 3:17 p.m. Houston time on July 20—and hours later, at 9:56 p.m., Armstrong became the first person to step on the moon, famously proclaiming: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Over the next two hours , Armstrong and Aldrin collected soil and rock samples and set up experiments. They left an American flag planted on the moon’s surface and a plaque that reads, “We came in peace for all mankind.”

Subsequent lunar exploration

The U.S. would make five more successful crewed trips to the moon’s surface in the years that followed. Astronauts collected samples, ran scientific experiments, and tested a lunar rover. The program ended in December 1972 with Apollo 17, which saw astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spend more than three days on the moon.

[This stuff had the right stuff: hunting down iconic objects of the 1960s U.S. space program.)

After the successful missions to the moon, the U.S. and the Soviet Union began to collaborate. In 1975 the countries launched their first joint mission, Apollo-Soyuz , in which American and Soviet spacecraft successfully docked with one another while in orbit—allowing their crews to meet in space. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. and Russia continued their partnership in space, working together to build the International Space Station .

Several countries have since made uncrewed journeys to the moon, but the U.S. remains the sole country whose astronauts have set foot on the lunar surface. NASA intends to return astronauts to the moon by 2025 with its Artemis program , and other countries such as China also plan to send humans to the moon in the coming years or decades.

In the future, humans may venture all the way to Mars. Such a journey would require technologies that do not exist yet —but the same was true when the Apollo program was announced six decades ago.

“We choose to go to the moon,” Kennedy told the nation in a 1962 address . “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organise and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

  • Space Exploration

The Space Race between the 1960s and 1970s

  • Julia D'Alessandro Western University

“The Space Race between the 1960s and 1970s” is an analysis of the progression of science throughout the named decades and the impact the space exploration had on these achievements.  With a focus on the telemetry system of the Voyager Missions, this paper explores topics such as colour photography, satellites, and radio waves.  It will explain concepts such as Golay coding which allows for higher resolution photographs to be transmitted from space and radio waves allowing scientists to measure characteristics of other planets in our solar system (i.e., atmospheric composition).  “The Space Race between the 1960s and 1970s” will discuss how public support – and consequently funding - for space exploration has declined over time and how this has affected the progress of organizations like NASA.  The international space race was an instrumental part of scientific development in human history; this paper aims to bring light to both its successes and failures.

research papers on space race

  • D'Alessandro PDF

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"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish...."  —President John F. Kennedy, 1961 

In 1961, President John Kennedy called on the nation to send a man to the Moon. In 1969, the United States did just that. Today, many are familiar with the story of Neil Armstrong’s first few steps on the Moon (cue the “That’s one small step...” quote), but have you ever questioned why we invested so much time, effort, and national attention in getting there? 

John F. Kennedy speaks to Congress during a speech announcing his plans to put Americans on the moon.

From an Arms Race to a Space Race 

The Space Race began as an arms race between the respective militaries of the United States and the Soviet Union. World War II had demonstrated to the world that rocket technology would drive modern warfare, and as such the U.S. and Russia locked themselves in a race to have the most superior technology. As technology advanced and powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were developed by both countries, the arms race gave way to another race—the Space Race.  

At the start, there were no set rules for the Space Race. What was the goal? What would count as winning? For Americans, President Kennedy's declaration focused the Space Race on a clear goal: landing a man on the Moon before the Soviets. The Space Race became a race to the Moon. 

Both countries made announcements to launch the first artificial satellite into space, but it was the Soviet Union that brought humanity into the Space Age with their Sputnik satellite, which was successfully launched on October 4, 1957. 

Launch of Sputnik

The Space Race became a symbol of the broad ideological and political contest between two rival world powers. In the Soviet Union, all space programs were integrated into a secretive military-industrial bureaucracy. Launches were not announced in advance, and only the successes were publicized. Comparatively, in the United States there were separate civilian and military agencies. Only military space programs were secret. Civilian space activities—especially the race to the Moon—were openly publicized for the world to see, failures and all. For years, the Soviets officially denied being in a race to the Moon. However, we now know there is ample evidence that they indeed competed to reach the Moon first. 

Not Yet a Moon Shot 

Before Kennedy’s call to send a man to the Moon, the early years of the Space Race marked successes through headline making “firsts”: the first satellite, the first man in space, the first woman in space, the first spacewalk. To the dismay of the United States, each of these early feats was achieved first by the Soviet Union. These events triggered a drive to catch up with—and surpass—the Soviets. 

Despite the United States’s hopes that it would beat the Soviet Union in launching the first artificial satellite into space, initial launch attempts using the Navy’s Vanguard rocket ended in disaster. Public response to the Vanguard failures prompted national soul-searching in the United States. The media questioned why "Ivan" could accomplish things that "Johnny" could not. 

Vanguard Explosion

After the first Vanguard failure, the Army gained approval to attempt a satellite launch. On January 31, 1958, a modified Redstone missile, the Jupiter-C, lofted America's first satellite, Explorer 1, into space. In March, the Navy's Vanguard succeeded in its third attempt to launch a satellite. Although still behind, America had rallied after its initial stumble and was now in the Space Race. 

Shooting for the Moon 

President Kennedy wanted to know what the United States could do in space to take the lead from the Soviets. Vice President Lyndon Johnson polled leaders in NASA, industry, and the military. He reported that "with a strong effort" the United States "could conceivably" beat the Soviets in sending a person around the Moon or landing a person on the Moon. As neither nation yet had a rocket powerful enough for such a mission, the race to the Moon was a contest that the United States would not be starting at a disadvantage. On May 25, 1961, when President Kennedy announced the goal of landing a man on the Moon, the total time spent in space by an American was barely 15 minutes. 

Although the United States has turned its sights on the Moon, there were many other “firsts” that needed to be met before they would be ready for a crewed landing on the surface of the Moon. The Soviets would beat the Americans to the finish line in many of these. Although it seemed that the U.S. still lagged behind the U.S.S.R. in space, in reality the United States was following a methodical step-by-step program, in which each mission built upon and extended the previous ones. The Mercury and Gemini missions carefully prepared the way for the Apollo lunar missions. 

Man holding command module model with John Kennedy

The one-person Mercury missions developed hardware for safe spaceflight and return to Earth and began to show how human beings would fare in space. From 1961 through 1963, the United States flew many test flights and six crewed Mercury missions. 

After Mercury NASA introduced Gemini, an enlarged, redesigned spacecraft for two astronauts. Ten crewed Gemini missions were flown from 1964 through 1966 to improve techniques of spacecraft control, rendezvous and docking, and spacewalking (extravehicular activity). One Gemini mission spent a record-breaking two weeks in space, time enough for a future crew to go to the Moon, explore, and return. 

A Moon Landing and New Priorities  

The Apollo program saw many triumphs, such as the success of the Saturn V rocket, and quickly put the United States on path to the Moon. On July 21, 1969, as millions around the world watched on television, two Americans stepped onto another world for the first time. The United States successfully landed humans on the Moon and returned them safely, fulfilling President Kennedy's vision and meeting the goal that inspired manned spaceflight during the 1960s. 

When the race to the Moon ended, the Soviet and American human spaceflight programs moved in different directions. For many Americans, landing on the Moon ended the Space Race. Some expected the Apollo missions to be the beginning of an era in which humans would begin to inhabit outer space as they did Earth. Others questioned whether costly human spaceflight should continue now that the race, at least in their eyes, was won.

Apollo 11 Ticker-Tape Parade

For the Soviets, the competition with the United States did not end. They began to pursue longer term goals, such as establishing a permanent presence in space with a series of Earth-orbiting space stations. They also began to explore the other planets with robotics and probes, just like the United States. 

While the race to space may have slowed down slightly after the first human landed on the Moon, the Cold War still raged on for another two decades. Finally, between 1989 and 1990, the Berlin Wall—which separated Soviet-controlled East Germany from Western Germany—fell and Germany was reunified. In 1991, the Soviet Union itself dissolved, and with it, the Cold War.

Competition in space has continued throughout the three decades following the collapse of the USSR and the seeming end of the Cold War. The United States and Russia have entered into cooperative agreements, most notable the assembly and occupation of the International Space Station that began at the beginning of this century. In contrast, each side has maintained its own independent security and industrial interests in space.

The International Space Station floats above Earth

Reconnaissance, surveillance, and military communications spacecraft retain their importance in the American Department of Defense and the Russian Ministry of Defense. And, as is true with other large and powerful nations, each has its own location, timing and navigation satellite system. While systems such as the U.S. GPS has a familiar civilian use, the highest capabilities of these systems are reserved for military uses.  

Sabotage or reduction of each other’s space based infrastructure is a continual effort on both sides of the continuing space race. Twenty-first century militaries rely on space-based infrastructure for successful operations. Finding the means to diminish that reliability for the other side could determine the outcome in battle. And Russia and China, over the objections of the rest of the world, continue to experiment and test space-based weapons that can physically attack another nation’s orbiting satellites. So, while examples of cooperation and collaboration had replaced some of the modes of high-profile competition of the 20th century Space Race, the race to achieve technological advantage in space continues today. 

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The Space Race

By: History.com Editors

Updated: February 21, 2020 | Original: February 22, 2010

June 1965) Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) spaceflight, floats in the zero-gravity of space during the third revolution of the GT-4 spacecraft.June 1965) Astronaut Edward H. White II, pilot for the Gemini-Titan 4 (GT-4) spaceflight, floats in the zero-gravity of space during the third revolution of the GT-4 spacecraft. (Photo by: HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

After World War II drew to a close in the mid-20th century, a new conflict began. Known as the Cold War, this battle pitted the world’s two great powers—the democratic, capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union—against each other. Beginning in the late 1950s, space became another dramatic arena for this competition, as each side sought to prove the superiority of its technology, its military firepower and–by extension–its political-economic system.

Causes of the Space Race

By the mid-1950s, the U.S.-Soviet Cold War had worked its way into the fabric of everyday life in both countries, fueled by the arms race and the growing threat of nuclear weapons, wide-ranging espionage and counter-espionage between the two countries, war in Korea and a clash of words and ideas carried out in the media. These tensions would continue throughout the space race, exacerbated by such events as the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and the outbreak of war in Southeast Asia.

Space exploration served as another dramatic arena for Cold War competition. On October 4, 1957, a Soviet R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile launched Sputnik (Russian for “traveler”), the world’s first artificial satellite and the first man-made object to be placed into the Earth’s orbit. Sputnik’s launch came as a surprise, and not a pleasant one, to most Americans. In the United States, space was seen as the next frontier, a logical extension of the grand American tradition of exploration, and it was crucial not to lose too much ground to the Soviets. In addition, this demonstration of the overwhelming power of the R-7 missile–seemingly capable of delivering a nuclear warhead into U.S. air space–made gathering intelligence about Soviet military activities particularly urgent.

Did you know? After Apollo 11 landed on the moon's surface in July 1969, six more Apollo missions followed by the end of 1972. Arguably the most famous was Apollo 13, whose crew managed to survive an explosion of the oxygen tank in their spacecraft's service module on the way to the moon.

Apollo 11

NASA Is Created

In 1958, the United States launched its own satellite, Explorer I, designed by the U.S. Army under the direction of rocket scientist Wernher von Braun . That same year, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a public order creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ), a federal agency dedicated to space exploration.

Eisenhower also created two national security-oriented space programs that would operate simultaneously with NASA’s program. The first, spearheaded by the U.S. Air Force, dedicated itself to exploiting the military potential of space. The second, led by the Central Intelligence Agency ( CIA ), the Air Force and a new organization called the National Reconnaissance Office (the existence of which was kept classified until the early 1990s) was code-named Corona; it would use orbiting satellites to gather intelligence on the Soviet Union and its allies.

Space Race Heats Up: Men (And Chimps) Orbit Earth

In 1959, the Soviet space program took another step forward with the launch of Luna 2, the first space probe to hit the moon. In April 1961, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit Earth , traveling in the capsule-like spacecraft Vostok 1. For the U.S. effort to send a man into space, dubbed Project Mercury, NASA engineers designed a smaller, cone-shaped capsule far lighter than Vostok; they tested the craft with chimpanzees  and held a final test flight in March 1961 before the Soviets were able to pull ahead with Gagarin’s launch. On May 5, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space (though not in orbit).

Later that May, President John F. Kennedy made the bold, public claim that the U.S. would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, and by the end of that year, the foundations of NASA’s lunar landing program–dubbed Project Apollo –were in place.

Achievements of Apollo

From 1961 to 1964, NASA’s budget was increased almost 500 percent, and the lunar landing program eventually involved some 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industrial and university contractors. Apollo suffered a setback in January 1967, when three astronauts were killed after their spacecraft caught fire during a launch simulation. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union’s lunar landing program proceeded tentatively, partly due to internal debate over its necessity and to the untimely death (in January 1966) of Sergey Korolyov, chief engineer of the Soviet space program.

December 1968 saw the launch of Apollo 8, the first manned space mission to orbit the moon, from NASA’s massive launch facility on Merritt Island, near Cape Canaveral, Florida . On July 16, 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong , Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins set off on the Apollo 11 space mission, the first lunar landing attempt. After landing successfully on July 20, Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon’s surface; he famously called the momen t “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Who Won the Space Race?

By landing on the moon, the United States effectively “won” the space race that had begun with Sputnik’s launch in 1957. For their part, the Soviets made four failed attempts to launch a lunar landing craft between 1969 and 1972, including a spectacular launch-pad explosion in July 1969. From beginning to end, the American public’s attention was captivated by the space race, and the various developments by the Soviet and U.S. space programs were heavily covered in the national media. This frenzy of interest was further encouraged by the new medium of television. Astronauts came to be seen as the ultimate American heroes, and earth-bound men and women seemed to enjoy living vicariously through them. Soviets, in turn, were pictured as the ultimate villains, with their massive, relentless efforts to surpass America and prove the power of the communist system.

With the conclusion of the space race, U.S. government interest in lunar missions waned after the early 1970s. In 1975, the joint Apollo-Soyuz mission sent three U.S. astronauts into space aboard an Apollo spacecraft that docked in orbit with a Soviet-made Soyuz vehicle. When the commanders of the two crafts officially greeted each other, their “ handshake in space ” served to symbolize the gradual improvement of U.S.-Soviet relations in the late Cold War era.

research papers on space race

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Space Race: Home

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The New Space Race

Space exploration today is a long way from the United States–Soviet Union space race in the 1960s. This means that the new space race isn’t between a couple of countries but among several players, particularly the fast-growing economies of China, India, and Japan.

Today the conversation is more centered on economic opportunities—the chance to create unique products in microgravity or to mine rare elements from the Moon or nearby asteroids. What remains the same, though, is national prestige.

Quoted from: Howell, E. (2021). The New Space Race. In Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/explore/space/the-new-space-race/

New Space Race Shoots for Moon and Mars on a Budget

The first space race was a competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union for national pride and military advantage. Now NASA is farming out missions to private companies, and other countries have joined the race — notably China and India. The moon and Mars remain tantalizing goals for many nations, as are the technological advances that space exploration can drive.

Since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA, as the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration is better known, had relied on Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, which has orbited Earth for two decades. That changed in 2020 when billionaire Elon Musk’s company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, flew its first crewed missions, powered by reusable boosters that dramatically cut launch costs. Boeing Co.’s Starliner, a new capsule for astronauts designed to fly on the existing Atlas rocket, has been undergoing a major software revamp ahead of a planned second uncrewed test flight to the space station that NASA has scheduled for July 30. Depending on the outcome of that flight, Starliner may fly astronauts to the ISS late this year or in 2022.

Quoted from: Bachman, J. (2021, July 13). New Space Race Shoots for Moon and Mars on a Budget. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/new-space-race-shoots-for-moon-and-mars-on-a-budget/2021/07/12/5bac6b04-e33a-11eb-88c5-4fd6382c47cb_story.html

CQ Researcher

  • New Space Race - Is the U.S. falling behind Russia and China? When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969, the United States was widely proclaimed the victor in the space race with the Soviet Union. Today, however, with the U.S. space shuttle program no longer in operation, NASA pays Russia to transport U.S. crews to the International Space Station and the Pentagon depends on Russian rocket engines to launch its military satellites into orbit. In addition, China's space program is growing rapidly, and U.S. officials worry it threatens American space assets, including military satellites. Policymakers also fear that U.S. satellites are at risk from accidental collisions. Meanwhile, NASA is planning for deep-space missions, even as some experts say these missions cost too much and the agency should rely more on private spaceflight companies. Other debates focus on whether the United States should return astronauts to the moon, as President Trump wants NASA to do in the next two years, and whether humans or robots should take the lead in exploring space.
  • Space Exploration - Is a new global race inevitable? The Artemis program, NASA's ambitious plan to send humans back to the moon and then to Mars, remains intact after the change in presidential administrations — a rarity for the space agency. But the program appears increasingly unlikely to meet its 2024 deadline for landing astronauts on the lunar surface in preparation for a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s. Meanwhile, other countries, most notably China, are sending robotic probes to the moon and Mars, spurring speculation that a new international space race is underway. The U.S. military increasingly views space as a future theater of war and has marshalled its resources — including the newly created U.S. Space Force — to counter Russian and Chinese development of anti-satellite weapons. The U.S. aerospace industry is also playing an increasingly important role, developing new rockets for the Artemis program and enabling NASA to end its reliance on Russia for transportation to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, several companies are competing to claim a dominant role in a fast-growing industry: space tourism.

EBSCO Articles

  • Monetizing the Final Frontier - New Republic The article discusses political and business issues associated with space privatization in the U.S. Topics explored include the launch of aerospace firm SpaceX by billionaire Elon Musk, the reported acceleration of private sector involvement in space travel and space-related operations, and the significant role of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in spacecraft design and development.

The new space race documentary

China's Space Ambitions

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The original space race

Space exploration throughout history.

Space exploration, the investigation, by means of crewed and uncrewed spacecraft, of the reaches of the universe beyond Earth’s atmosphere and the use of the information so gained to increase knowledge of the cosmos and benefit humanity. A complete list of all crewed spaceflights, with details on each mission’s accomplishments and crew, is available in the section Chronology of crewed spaceflights .

Humans have always looked at the heavens and wondered about the nature of the objects seen in the night sky. With the development of rockets and the advances in electronics and other technologies in the 20th century, it became possible to send machines and animals and then people above Earth’s atmosphere into outer space. Well before technology made these achievements possible, however, space exploration had already captured the minds of many people, not only aircraft pilots and scientists but also writers and artists. The strong hold that space travel has always had on the imagination may well explain why professional astronauts and laypeople alike consent at their great peril, in the words of Tom Wolfe in The Right Stuff (1979), to sit “on top of an enormous Roman candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse.” It perhaps also explains why space exploration has been a common and enduring theme in literature and art. As centuries of speculative fiction in books and more recently in films make clear, “one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” was taken by the human spirit many times and in many ways before Neil Armstrong stamped humankind’s first footprint on the Moon.

Quoted from: Logsdon, J. M. (2021, July 30). space exploration. Encyclopedia Britannica . https://www.britannica.com/science/space-exploration


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  • v.9(2); Mar-Apr 2002

The Space Race and Biodefense

Michael m. wagner.

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The events that followed the launch of Sputnik on Oct 4, 1957, provide a metaphor for the events that are following the first bioterroristic case of pulmonary anthrax in the United States. This paper uses that metaphor to elucidate the nature of the task ahead and to suggest questions such as, Can the goals of the biodefense effort be formulated as concisely and concretely as the goal of the space program? Can we measure success in biodefense as we did for the space project? What are the existing resources that are the equivalents of propulsion systems and rocket engineers that can be applied to the problems of biodefense?

History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed only 183 pounds, and took about 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. That launch ushered in new political, military, technological, and scientific developments. While the Sputnik launch was a single event, it marked the start of the space age and the U.S.–U.S.S.R space race. 1

History also changed on Oct 4, 2001, 44 years to the day later, when health officials announced that a 63-year-old Florida man had contracted pulmonary anthrax and had been hospitalized with the infection. 2 This event, too, is ushering in an era of new political, technologic, and scientific developments, with a substantial, if not predominant, focus on the fields of medical care and public health. As a result, medicine is already experiencing fundamental changes, such as the demise of the time-honored practice of “watchful waiting” when a patient has symptoms of early viral illness.

Public health is experiencing even greater changes. Techniques of disease control such as sanitation, vaccination, and water treatment that have produced dramatic improvements in health and longevity over the past century are no longer sufficient for the protection of the public health. Traditional disease transmission cycles memorized by generations of students will henceforth include hundreds of new pathways, such as biowarfare plant > foreign agent > terrorist cell > mail handling facility > infected human along side the familiar infected human > mosquito > infected human.

Disease control now involves participation by national security agencies in the detection of terrorists with the motivation and capabilities to conduct such attacks, detection of biowarfare production capabilities, detection of plans to disseminate such material, and detection of actual covert transfers of material. Electron beam irradiation of the mail is an early example of changes in the methods of disease control that could ultimately grow to include the widespread deployment of environmental or even personal portable sensing devices. The broadening of the techniques and organizations involved in the protection of the public health is such that some are speaking of a new field called biodefense .

It is in the area of public health surveillance that the analogy between the space race and biodefense is perhaps closest. To mitigate a medium or large-scale surreptitious release of Bacillus anthracis will require breathtaking improvements in the rapidity of detection and of response decision-making in public health. Improvements of even an hour over current capabilities may reduce economic impact by hundreds of millions of dollars. 3 To attain such capabilities, however, the nation must develop electronic public health surveillance systems that process clinical and other types of data looking for the earliest possible clues of an outbreak in real time on a national or even international scale. Here, the breadth of technologic advances required and the scale of their deployment undoubtedly warrant the label Big Science .

The field of medical informatics, which is the study of the roles and uses of information and information technology in biomedicine, has made foundational contributions in the fields of medical care and public health. These contributions are being leveraged to build new public health surveillance systems. They include highly visible products such as electronic medical records and immunization registries as well as less visible but arguably more influential products such as technical contributions in the key areas of representation, inference, decision-making under uncertainty, and standards for exchange of biomedical data. Indeed, many of these results have influenced and been incorporated into the specifications for the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System being promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 4

Rapid detection and response will also depend on tight coupling between the activities of public-health workers and the activities of individual clinicians. This coupling can be accomplished best through the embedding of decision support and disease reporting capabilities in clinical information systems. Such an infrastructure will help clinicians adhere to the rapidly changing population-based guidelines needed to manage optimally individual cases, and it will provide public health officials with aggregate information about disease activity needed for public health surveillance.

Those researchers in medical informatics who have witnessed the nation's slow progress toward ubiquitous clinical computing over the past four decades may wonder about the nation's capacity for such a breathtaking advance in disease surveillance, especially in light of the present state of deliberations in Congress. The early halting steps of the nation and Congress, however, should not be interpreted as the only and final reactions of the country. The early history of the space race suggests otherwise:

Immediately after the Sputnik I launch in October, the U.S. Defense Department responded to the political furor by approving funding for another U.S. satellite project. Werner von Braun and his Army Redstone Arsenal team began work on the Explorer project. On January 31, 1958, the tide changed, when the United States successfully launched Explorer I. This satellite carried a small scientific payload that eventually discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth, named after principal investigator James Van Allen. The Sputnik launch also led directly to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (commonly called the “Space Act”), which created NASA as of October 1, 1958, from the National Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other government agencies. 1

It may be reassuring to us now to recognize that President Eisenhower and Congress, under a less dire threat, were nonetheless able to come together to take immediate action in the form of the Explorer I program. Nine months later, they followed with definitive action—consolidation of multiple, small, overlapping efforts into a single dedicated agency. This consolidating of resources under NASA is even more noteworthy given that, at the time, the Army had the most advanced rocket propulsion system (the Jupiter C) and the von Braun team, which subsequently became a key asset of the NASA team. The analogy raises the question of whether the country needs a NASA-like reorganization and consolidation of diverse federal efforts in biodefense.

NASA from its inception was managed by rocket engineers who were (largely) undistracted by objectives other than the single-minded goal of winning the space race. A question for the nation is, Who are the rocket engineers for the field of biodefense? The answer may be that they are the experts in medical informatics. For the past several years, researchers in medical informatics have developed and fielded electronic public health surveillance systems and have provided direction to projects such as those described in a separate article in this issue of the Journal. 5 As in the field of rocketry prior to the space race, the nation has available a body of knowledge, parts, and existing teams of researchers working on actual fielded systems.

The analogy between the space race and biodefense can provide additional insights and guidance to the country. It is widely acknowledged that President Kennedy's promise to land men on the moon and return them safely by the end of the decade inspired Congress and the nation through its simplicity and clarity. This clear goal statement was a source of guidance to legislators, managers, scientists, engineers, and construction workers throughout the world as they made the millions of individual decisions that led to our success in the space race.

It is an interesting question whether the goals of the biodefense effort can be formulated as concisely and concretely as the goal of NASA. Similar goal statements for biodefense might be to, within a year, reduce detection and response time by two days over current levels and, within five years, to detect and respond, within a day of their release, to any biological agents that threaten the health of our citizens.

The Sputnik launch revealed deficiencies in training and education in the sciences that were ameliorated by massive changes in the educational system. A parallel exists in the area of training of the public health workforce in information technology. The analogy also suggests the question of whether the expected technologic spin-offs in the areas of large-scale computing, simulation, and mitigation of naturally occurring epidemics will equal the spin-offs of NASA in the areas of materials, computers, communications, and electronics. The analogy may also reveal differences. Biodefense may fundamentally be best accomplished by regional deployments under central coordination and support, rather than a single national effort.

The development of early warning capability for biological events is Big Science. The nation should draw on lessons learned from the space race 6, 7 and other historical challenges, including the Manhattan Project, to ensure success in meeting the present challenge. These lessons include the value of a clear call to action, identification of existing resources, consolidation of the resources, and in highly technical areas such as early warning systems for biodefense, assignment of responsibility and authority to scientists and engineers in fields that are already working on the problem.


The author thanks Gregory Cooper, MD, PhD, and Eric Rodriguez, MD.

This paper is based on a plenary presentation at the AMIA Annual Symposium, Nov. 5, 2001, in Washington, DC.


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Cyanobacteria rock extreme environments

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EXPOSE R-2 BIOMEX, an investigation from ESA, measures the survival of terrestrial organisms in extreme environments, which could provide insight into the characteristics that extraterrestrial life would need to survive in space. Researchers exposed the desert cyanobacterium Chroococcidiopsis to simulated Mars-like conditions in space and on the ground. They report no increased genetic variants in the space strain, suggesting that the strain retained its ability to repair accumulated DNA lesions caused by radiation exposure. Cyanobacteria have potential for use in artificial bioregenerative life support systems to provide oxygen and food in space and for fuel, fertilizers, marine farming, and pharmaceuticals on Earth.

How plants sense gravity

image of an astronaut working with an experiment

Gravity acts as an important influence on plant development on Earth. Plant Gravity Sensing, an investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), studies whether plants grown in microgravity can sense changes in gravity. Researchers report that Arabidopsis seeds cultured on a nylon lace mesh in microgravity had coiled roots and increased root entanglement with the mesh compared to those in Earth’s gravity. This observation suggests that gravity influences root coiling. Understanding how gravity affects plant growth could help scientists develop new ways to grow plants in space and lead to development of new plant varieties on Earth.

Archaeology in orbit

image of an astronaut taking pictures of a work area in the space station

More than 332,000 items have been sent to the space station during its 20-plus years of human habitation. SQuARE, an investigation sponsored by the ISS National Lab, examined what happened to these objects and their possible symbolic and social meanings for crew members. Researchers report their observations on the processes developed to return research, commercial, and personal items to Earth and the meanings and associations of the objects that return. This research provides insights into the nature of life on the station and could inform design of future space habitats by expanding our understanding of how different objects and spaces are used over time. The paper’s authors received an Award for Outstanding Work in Digital Archaeology from the Archaeological Institute of America.

Microanalysis of Martian meteorite

image of an astronaut working on an experiment

Mochii is a miniature scanning electron microscope (SEM) that conducts real-time imaging and measurements of specimens on the space station. Such particles can interfere with equipment or affect crew health. To test the accuracy of the technology, researchers analyzed a fragment of a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica in 1984. They compared results using a standard SEM on the ground and Mochii on the space station, noting good agreement between the results that indicates accurate functioning of the microscope in space. Mochii could support novel, real-time scientific investigations and technology testing in microgravity to benefit space travelers and humans on Earth.

Watching water use from above

image of experiment hardware installed in an exterior facility of the space station

ECOSTRESS measures the temperature of the surface of Earth to help answer questions about water availability, vegetation water stress, and agricultural water use. Researchers used data from the investigation to study the water use efficiency (WUE) values within and among regions with different plant functional types, such as grassland and forest. WUE provides a direct measure of the link between plant carbon uptake and water loss and shows how ecosystem function varies with climate.

Ultracold bubbles

image of an astronaut working with an experiment

The space station’s Cold Atom Lab (CAL) produces clouds of chilled atoms that allow scientists to study fundamental behaviors and quantum characteristics that are difficult to probe at higher temperatures on Earth. Researchers report creation and measurements of bubbles of these ultracold atoms. Their observations could inform future microgravity studies exploring the fundamental nature of the condensed bubble state and advancing understanding of quantum systems.

Radio program notches 7th continent

image of team members at an Antarctic camp

The ISS Ham Radio program reached every continent on Earth when astronaut Kjell Lindgren spoke via amateur radio with students at a school in Argentina’s Esperanza Base in Antarctica. These sessions engage students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community and help inspire interest in science, technology, engineering, and math. Esperanza Base is a permanent, year-round Argentine research station in Hope Bay on the Trinity Peninsula, one of only two civilian settlements in Antarctica.

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The Space Race and its Impact on the Cold War

Competing cartoon rockets, one US and one USSR.

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80 Space Research Paper Topics: Ideas for Astronomical Grades!

space topics

Why space research? The universe is replete with worlds apart from the planet earth. From our historical ancestors discovering fire to modern man exploring space, inquisitiveness has been vital to the innovation and exploration of our universe, and the survival and advancement of the human species. Space science has become increasingly popular over the years. With the study of outer space and space discoveries piling up by the day, it is essential to be able to write an essay on space. Writing on any topic about space will require that you are abreast of the latest space discoveries.

Writing a space essay would require that you have a working knowledge of other types of essays that we have described in our previous posts. For example, knowing how to write a descriptive essay will help in an article on the study of objects in space, while knowledge of how to write an argumentative essay will come in handy when writing an essay on controversial space topics. If you’re not sure you can do all this on your own, get college thesis writing help .

Coming Up With Great Space Topics

Space race topics, space research topics, space exploration topics, space topics for presentation, controversial space topics, earth and space science topics, astronomy research paper topics, astronomy essay topics, space arguable research topics, space science investigative essay topics.

Before writing an article on space study, you need to choose the right space topic. Choosing appropriate space topics is critical to the success of your space essay as the right topic will give you the luxury of a better flow of ideas. For this reason, we have crafted 80 topics about space that will make writing a space essay easy. You can never get bored while working on these interesting space topics because you will learn to explore and study space as you’ve never done before. These 80 cool space topics will come in handy in any space essay you plan to write.

Writing a space race essay is an excellent place to start if you want to explore the events that lead to the explosive growth of the space industry. The space race was a competition between the United States and the Soviet Union to attain the capability of space flight from the period of 1955 to 1975. If you’re interested in going back in time to tell these space stories uniquely, these space race topics will surely land you on the moon!

  • The 1955 Space Race: Its Pros and Cons on the Rival Countries.
  • The 1955 Space Race: Its Enduring Impact on Modern Space Technology and Travel.
  • The 1955 Space Race: A Battle for Supremacy.
  • How the Space Race Transformed America.
  • The 1955 Space Race: The reason the Soviet Union lost to the USA.

Space research has become popular over the last decades. It is an extensive research field that seeks to study outer space scientifically. Research topics about space are relatively easy to find considering the broad research areas, which include: Earth observations, Geodesy, Atmospheric Sciences, Space physics, Planetology, Astronomy, Materials sciences, Life sciences, and Physics. Space research paper topics must stimulate and birth inquiry and answer compelling questions. Are you ready to get on the space shuttle? Here are some space research topics to help you!

  • 2000 – 2010: A successful Decade in Astronomy?
  • The Theory of Relativity in Space.
  • UFOs and Extraterrestrials: Fact or Fiction?
  • Space Colonization: Reasons, Goals, and Methods.
  • Big Bang Theory: The Birth of the Universe?

Space exploration is the investigation of outer space with the use of space technology and astronomy. While the study of space is carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, its physical exploration is carried out by both robotic space probes and human spaceflight. Writing a space exploration essay opens your imagination to the wonders of outer space. You sure need to be ready for the unexpected! Here are some space exploration topics to whet your adventurous appetite!

  • The Need for Continuous Space Exploration.
  • Space Exploration: Differences between the then and now.
  • Space Exploration: Its Importance to the Knowledge of the Earth and Universe.
  • Space Exploration: Operations and Future Exploration Plans.
  • The Importance of Unmanned Space Exploration.

Giving a presentation or seminar on space could be quite dicey. It requires that you can make complex phenomena appeal to the mind of your listeners. To be able to do this, you need to have a considerable amount of knowledge in any of the space science topics that you choose. A tip will be to choose topics that your audience will easily relate to, prepare adequately, and remember that you’re communicating with earthlings. Here are some space topics for a presentation that will earn you the respect of the extraterrestrials!

  • The Earth and Universe.
  • Getting the Big Picture from the Study of Dwarf Galaxies.
  • History of Astronomy: A scientific Overview.
  • What Exists in Space beyond our Solar Neighborhood.
  • Future Space Missions: A look into what they should be.

Something as big as space study does not come without its controversies. Space exploration and travel are not without their risks and benefits. Many believe that robots, instead of humans, should man shuttles for space travel because of the risk space travel poses to humans. Many people also see space study as a sheer waste of time and resources and think it better to channel these vast amounts of money to more critical areas like health and education. All these different views and more, are what make space study a controversial topic. Here are some controversial space topics that will give you a hang of what to discuss in a space-related debate. Some of these topics could also be helpful in a space travel essay.

  • Space Travel: At the Expense of our Health, Earth, and Future?
  • Space Travel: A thing for Robots or Humans?
  • Space Research: A Pointless Adventure and Waste of Resources?
  • Earth and the Search for Other Habitable Planets.
  • Science Versus Religion: The Big Bang?

Earth and Space Science or ESS, for short, connects systems by exploring the interrelationships between the land, atmosphere, ocean, and life on Earth. These include the water cycle, carbon cycle, rock cycle, and other materials that continually influence, shape, and sustain the earth. Here are some new earth and space science topics just for you!

  • The Interactions between Weather and Climate.
  • The Process of Rock Formation and Erosion.
  • Plate Tectonics: An In-depth Exploration.
  • Natural Catastrophes: Its consequence on the Ecosystem.
  • The Moon and Sun: Effects on Ocean Tides.

There are two fields of study in carrying out astronomical research – the observational and theoretical fields of astronomy. Observation primarily deals with the study and monitoring of actual celestial objects in space like stars, planets, moons, and asteroids.

Theoretical dwells more on creating and studying models of astronomy that cannot be observed and haven’t been properly seen. Some astronomy research paper topics include;

  • What happens during a solar eclipse?
  • What are the major factors responsible for the solar eclipse?
  • What should you expect during a lunar eclipse
  • What lies beyond our visible universe
  • Light and its dimension in space
  • The lunar cycle – how does it function?
  • Understanding solar system, sun, and the planets
  • What is astrophysics?
  • What are the different grand unification theories?
  • The latitude and longitude of the earth.
  • Fast mode, slow mode, and nonlinear effects

Celestial bodies like the sun, moon, other planets, and relatively closer objects in space are examined and comprehensively written upon under astronomy. Examples of astronomy essay topics include;

  • How our planet came to exist
  • How solar flares occur
  • Our solar system, in broad view
  • The effect of the moon on our oceans
  • How stars are born
  • What are the different types of stars in existence?
  • Understanding molecular cloud
  • How does the universe accelerate?
  • Understanding cosmic acceleration and galaxy cluster growth
  • Hubble constant and dark energy theories
  • Formation, evolution, and destruction of clouds in galaxies
  • What is the meridian and transit circle?

The mystery of what occurs inside a black hole is still up for debate, and so are other astronomical events. These form the bulk of space arguable research topics, which discuss things yet to be fully understood. Some space arguable research topics include;

  • What is truly beyond the Milky Way?
  • What is antimatter?
  • Why does space keep expanding?
  • How long does it take to travel the space?
  • The physics behind a black hole.
  • Is earth the most prominent of all the planets?
  • How do people who live on other planets survive?
  • Is Pluto an official planet or not?
  • Should the journey to Mars be opened to everyone?
  • What do astronauts eat while in space?
  • Is Pluto a dwarf planet?
  • A detailed analysis of the 2012 transit of Venus
  • What are the best defenses against killer asteroids?
  • Interplanetary matter and how to relate it to space activities.

Space is so vast and mysterious that there’s a lot to uncover with events to monitor and investigate. Creating agencies like NASA and the first mission to the moon was born out of curiosity about our place in this vast universe. Some space science investigative essay topics you could present include;

  • How does the sun affect our water bodies?
  • Where do asteroids come from?
  • Molecular Cloud: Molecules, Properties, and Distribution
  • How do solar systems with two stars operate?
  • Is there an earth-like planet in the nearest solar system?
  • Would we ever discover aliens?
  • Conducting exoplanet research
  • What is interstellar extinction?
  • What are the essentials needed for space travel?
  • Beyond this realm – understanding extraterrestrial life.
  • What is a deep impact mission?
  • Understanding the structure of the solar chromosphere.
  • An analysis of the Wilson-Bappu effect
  • What is a color index?

So here we are! 80 awesome space topics absolutely for free! Hopefully, you’ve got the perfect topic for your assignment or project. Keep shining like the star that you are! If you need more ideas, please check the following graduate project ideas .

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Space Race Research Paper

After World War II the new war began. It was called the Cold War. The Cold War was conflict between the two greatest powers on the earth. The United States and the Soviet Union. The two countries wanted to prove their technology, military power, economic system, and political system. The space race was a part of the Cold War. The space race began as the Soviet Union sent Sputnik and the first man into space. Sputnik was launched on October 04, 1957. Sputnik is world’s first artificial satellite. The word Sputnik means satellite in Russian. It was not good news for Americans because Americans thought if the Soviet Union could send satellite to the space then it means that the Soviet Union can send nuclear missile to the United States. In 1959, the Soviet Union took another step forward with the launch of Luna 2. It was the first space probe to land on moon. In April of 1961, the Soviet Union sent the first man to orbit the earth. His name is Yuri Gagarin. United States made cone shaped capsule to send a man into space. It was lighter and smaller than Vostok. President John F. Kennedy made a public claim that the United States will land a man on the moon’s surface …show more content…

There were a lot of tragedies during Apollo program. For example, on January 27, 1967, at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, a fire broke out during a manned launch pad test of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rocket. Three astronauts were killed. One of the most famous Apollo missions is Apollo 11 mission. This is because this mission was successful and humans went to the moon for the first time in history. The space race helped our world to develop. There are many things that developed after the space race. Such as satellite TV, laptops, the dust busters, smoke/carbon dioxide detectors, telemedicine, joysticks, 3D graphics, Non-reflective displays, ear thermometer, and GPS. These are things that were developed after the space

How Did Reaganomics Affect The American Economy

Soon after the Cold War came to an end, the United States and the USSR both began military technological advancements. If the USSR could get missiles into space, they could set them off at anyone anywhere. In the interest of protecting America and possibly the rest of the world, the main objective for the Space Race was to protect us against missiles from the USSR military. These advancements led to a competition between the US and the USSR to see who would be the first to space. America and the USSR were two of the most powerful countries in the entire world at that point in time.

Canadian Innovations During The Space Race

After few years of alliance between The Soviet Union and The US. However, the peaceful was broken very soon when two superpowers got into a cold war which they were totally enemies in someways. Lots of issues occurred during such period, one of them was the Space Race. Vast number of innovations and high technology was coming out at the same time. Truly, those innovations did influence Canada in different fields during the period of Space Race.

With the television becoming a necessity in the modern home, it grew in popularity. As technology furthered people wanted to see more things and it excited them. As technology advanced even more, the people of the U.S, decided to invest in space ships. They used these spaceships to put the first man on the moon. It showed just how advanced America was.

How Did The Cold War Change American Life After Ww2

This began a long, heated war between the Soviet and the United States, known as the Arms Race. The Cold War had started a couple years earlier soon after the World War had ended. This was basically a period of time where the United States and Soviet Russia exchanged many threats and were extremely hostile toward each other. This was somewhat strange, seeing as how the two countries fought as allies against the Axis powers. However, the United States long feared the spread of communism.

Cold War Dbq

They went on and launched a dog into space. Shortly after the Americans developed a space administration. The race ended when the United States landed on the moon in 1969. Neil Armstrong was the first person to be on the moon and he returned back safely, accomplishing their goal of demonstrating superiority in their

John F. Kennedy's Role In The Cold War

After the long, hardships of World War Two the Cold War had begun. This was a period of distrust between global superpowers Russia and the United States of America. This brought Kennedy into the limelight with his ambitious desire for America to be the first out of the two to have a man on the Moon this then commenced the highly competitive space race. The decision was announced to the general public

Cold War: The Space Race

Before the space race The United States hadn’t done much exploring in space or what they could send up into space but this race with the Soviet Union encouraged the United States to start exploring their limits and everything outside of our world. The United States’ first achievement was the explorer one which was the first satellite sent into space. This helped them to understand their limits on space exploration as said in this quote "We believe that when men reach beyond this planet, they should leave their national differences behind them." President John F. Kennedy, 1962. The space race has impacted the world in a way that has given everyone the idea that there really are no limits if you set your mind to something and you really want to do

The Space Race Research Paper

After launching Explorer 1 the United States President at the time President Dwight Eisenhower created NASA to compete with the Russians therefore officially starting the Space Race. Two years after Sputnik 1 the Russians launched Luna 3 which was the first satellite to take a picture of the dark side of the Moon. Not only was it the first satellite to take a picture of the far side of the moon but it was also the third satellite to be sent to the

How Did The Space Race Affect The Cold War?

The race continued until 1969 when Niel Armstrong set foot on the moon (Seedhouse 128). The first satellite the Soviet Union launched into orbit was called Sputnik and it came as an unpleasant surprise to many Americans (“The Space Race”). Historians argue that the Soviet Union won the space race on October 4 1957 with the launch of Sputnik, but most agree it was just the start to the race (Seedhouse 128). After the launch of Sputnik the United States launched their own satellite in 1958 called explorer 1 which was designed by the United States army. The race began to heat up and the Soviet Union launched Luna 2 which became the first space probe to hit the moon (“The Space Race”).

Technological Advancements During The Space Race

According to NASA, space exploration resulted in numerous technological advancements and scientific strides and discoveries. The International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) highlights the positive outcomes of space exploration efforts, including advancements in satellite technology, telecommunications, weather forecasting, and public security. This notion is corroborated by a quote by NASA which implies that, "Space exploration has resulted in numerous technological spin offs and advancements that have benefited society" (NASA). These developments have had a plethora of technological benefits for today's society. However, the United States, with its Apollo program, made significant strides by successfully landing astronauts on the moon, establishing a lasting legacy in space

The Space Race: Competition Between The US And The Soviet Union

The Space Race was a time of competition between to two Cold War rivals, the US and the Soviet Union, in the discovery and exploration of space. The Space Race was a part of the Cold War and was another form of competition between them. This competition during the Space Race for breakthrough research in space exploration led to discoveries about space in a period of time that has not been rivaled by discoveries made after the end of the space race and the decrease in competition. This competition created an emphasis on researching space and shortened the time it would have most likely taken had there been no rivalry. The Space Race is considered to have started when the United States announced their plans for a satellite and the Soviet Union announced the same thing a few days later.

Sputnik Debate Summary

, Americans thought that they were superior to the Soviets. • Began the Space race in America against the Soviet Union to close the “space gap” • Although President Dwight Eisenhower had tried to downplay the importance of the Sputnik launch to the American

Space Race Term Papers

Seven months later the Soviets suffered from a launch pad explosion. A few days later in Florida we sent the first men to the moon. We used a Saturn 5 rocket to get to the moon. We were in space for four days before landing in “The sea of tranquility.” (Udvar)

Sputnik American Education In The 1980s

Sputnik can therefore be seen as responsible for a number of significant changes in American education as well as influencing the Americans directly to begin the space race and advance intellectually to surpass the Soviet

How Did The Space Race Impact The Politics Of America?

It gave us a vision towards the future. What the world had in store for us. It effects us by giving us satillites in the sky, because we would not be able to warn people when there is a hurrican, tornado, or a severe thunder storm is approaching. The Space Race also inspired little kids about what they wanted to be when they grow up.

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March 24, 2024

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NASA touts space research in anti-cancer fight


Experiments in the weightless environment of space have led to "crazy progress" in the fight against cancer, NASA officials said at a recent event highlighting an important and personal initiative of US President Joe Biden.

Space is "a unique place for research," astronaut Frank Rubio said at the event in Washington.

The 48-year-old, a physician and former military helicopter pilot, conducted cancer research during his recent mission to the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting some 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the Earth's surface.

Not only do cells there age more rapidly, speeding up research, their structures are also described as "purer."

"They all don't clump together (as they do) on Earth because of gravity. They are suspended in space," enabling better analysis of their molecular structures, NASA chief Bill Nelson told AFP in an interview.

Research conducted in space can help make cancer drugs more effective, Nelson added.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck has conducted research on the ISS with Keytruda, an anti-cancer drug that patients now receive intravenously.

Its key ingredient is difficult to transform into a liquid. One solution is crystallization, a process often used in drug manufacturing.

In 2017, Merck conducted experiments to see if the crystals would form more rapidly in space than on Earth.

Nelson used two pictures to demonstrate the difference. The first showed a blurry, transparent spot. But on the second, a large number of clear gray spots had emerged.

That photo showed that smaller, more uniform crystals were forming in space—and "forming better," Nelson said.

Thanks to such research, researchers will be able to make a drug that can be administered by injection in a doctor's office instead of through long and painful chemotherapy treatments, he added.

Merck identified techniques that can help it imitate the effects of these crystals on Earth as it works to develop a drug that can be stored at room temperature.

Still, it can take years between research in space and the wide availability of a drug developed there.

Cancer research in space began more than 40 years ago but has become "revolutionary" in recent years, said Nelson, a former Democratic senator who traveled into space himself in 1986.

"We use the languages of space to tell the limits of cancer," added W. Kimryn Rathmell, director of the National Cancer Institute, a federally funded research body.

Biden launched a "Cancer Moonshot" initiative in 2016, when he was then vice president, echoing a speech by John F. Kennedy some 60 years earlier outlining the bold goal of sending an American to the moon.

The goal of the "Moonshot" is to halve the death rate from cancer over the next quarter century, saving four million lives, according to the White House.

The battle against cancer, the country's second-leading cause of death after heart disease , hits home for Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015.

"We all know someone—and most of us love someone—who has battled this terrible disease," Xavier Becerra, Biden's secretary of health and human services, told reporters Thursday at NASA headquarters.

"As we did during the race to the moon," he added, "we believe our technology and scientific community are capable of making the impossible a reality when it comes to ending cancer as we know it."

Political realities may hinder that ambitious goal, though. Congress has earmarked just over $25 billion to NASA for 2024, two percent less than the previous year and well below what the White House had sought.

But Rathmell of the Cancer Institute holds out hope.

"The ability of space to capture the imagination is huge," she said. And space cancer research has a firm goal: "It can save lives."

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ACS Meetings & Expos

Acs fall 2024.

Hybrid event

Aug 18–22, 2024

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research papers on space race

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  1. Gas Space Race Research Paper Outline

    research papers on space race

  2. The Space Race Essay

    research papers on space race

  3. Space Race Infographic on Behance

    research papers on space race

  4. Throwback Thursday

    research papers on space race

  5. How the Space Race Gave Us GPS Technology

    research papers on space race

  6. The Space Race Infographic

    research papers on space race


  1. Sputnik and the Space Race: 1957 and Beyond

    The world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957, marking the start of the space race. This guide provides suggested research materials on this topic at the Library of Congress and online.

  2. The social construction of the space race: then and now

    Although space historians have documented in detail the decision-making processes that propelled the 1960s space race, ... European scientists proposed the creation of the European Space Research Organization. 77 It was established in ... Letter from Kennedy to Pickering, 23 Oct. 1959, pre-presidential papers, box 726, JFK Archives. 70. Memo ...

  3. Introduction

    On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik-1, the world's first artificial satellite. Only about the size of a beach ball (22.8 inches or 58 cm. in diameter) and weighing 183.9 pounds (83.6 kg), it orbited the Earth in around 98 minutes. The Sputnik launch marked the start of the space age and the US-USSR space race, and ...

  4. A Race to the Stars and Beyond: How the Soviet Union's Success in the

    This paper seeks to examine the Soviet Union's success during the Space Race (and subsequently, the global Arms Race) and its place within the larger East versus West conflict which occurred in the earlier years of the Cold War. By utilizing academic literature and primary Soviet sources, this paper will analyze how the Space

  5. Explore the Space Race With The New York Times's Archive

    With the moon landing on July 20, 1969, America effectively "won" the space race that began with Sputnik's launch 12 years earlier. But public interest in the space program soon waned. By ...

  6. Politics and the Space Race

    The story of the early rocket pioneers (Werhner von Braun, Sergei Korolev, and Robert Goddard) are woven together to examine how the Space Race was influenced by these brilliant scientists in the midst of international pressures. The story of the tense days of the Cold War is told with an eye on space travel.

  7. Battle for space: statecraft, diplomacy and defence strategy

    The first space race, for example, was an integral component of the first Cold War, which saw Western nations such as the United States and Britain pitted against the Soviet Union. ... laws and investments by the military are made and their impact across the spectrum of space research and operations, but also the broader public perception of ...

  8. How the space race launched an era of exploration beyond Earth

    Moments later, the Soviet cosmonaut became the first person in space and, 89 minutes after launch, the first person to orbit the planet. It was a pivotal moment in the space race between the United States and Soviet Union that would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. But it isn't where the story of human spaceflight truly begins: That trajectory was charted years earlier by ...

  9. Space Race and American Foreign Relations

    Project Apollo and the Race to the Moon in the 1960s. On April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union achieved another important first in space with the orbital flight of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.Like the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, accomplishing the first human spaceflight gave the Soviet Union a major international propaganda victory that challenged American technoscientific, military, and political ...

  10. Rocket Science for The Space Race by Vaibhavi Avachat :: SSRN

    Abstract. This review paper provides an in-depth exploration of rocket science, focusing on the historical context of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It examines the pivotal achievements, advancements, and significant events that shaped this era of intense competition.

  11. 112960 PDFs

    Explore the latest full-text research PDFs, articles, conference papers, preprints and more on SPACE EXPLORATION. ... Türkiye is also taking a step to become one of the pioneers in the space race ...

  12. The Space Race between the 1960s and 1970s

    "The Space Race between the 1960s and 1970s" is an analysis of the progression of science throughout the named decades and the impact the space exploration had on these achievements. With a focus on the telemetry system of the Voyager Missions, this paper explores topics such as colour photography, satellites, and radio waves. It will explain concepts such as Golay coding which allows for ...

  13. What Was the Space Race?

    On January 31, 1958, a modified Redstone missile, the Jupiter-C, lofted America's first satellite, Explorer 1, into space. In March, the Navy's Vanguard succeeded in its third attempt to launch a satellite. Although still behind, America had rallied after its initial stumble and was now in the Space Race. Shooting for the Moon.

  14. (PDF) How the Space Race Revolutionized Employment for ...

    Abstract. Although inundated in bureaucracy and governmental lethargy, the NASA Space program was revolutionary in its inclusion of people of color and women relative to society due to the highly ...

  15. The Space Race: Timeline, Cold War & Facts

    By landing on the moon, the United States effectively "won" the space race that had begun with Sputnik's launch in 1957. For their part, the Soviets made four failed attempts to launch a ...

  16. Home

    The New Space Race. Space exploration today is a long way from the United States-Soviet Union space race in the 1960s. This means that the new space race isn't between a couple of countries but among several players, particularly the fast-growing economies of China, India, and Japan. Today the conversation is more centered on economic ...

  17. The Space Race and Biodefense

    The analogy between the space race and biodefense can provide additional insights and guidance to the country. It is widely acknowledged that President Kennedy's promise to land men on the moon and return them safely by the end of the decade inspired Congress and the nation through its simplicity and clarity. ... This paper is based on a ...

  18. What We Learned from Scientific Investigations on the Space ...

    Between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022, researchers published more than 400 scientific papers based on studies conducted aboard the space station. Read highlights of some of the groundbreaking space station science published this past year below. For more space station research achievements and additional information about the findings ...

  19. FHSU Scholars Repository

    the Space Race, cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union were a vital. part in directing the Space Race toward peaceful ends. This paper examines the role that the IGY, the UN, and Cold War tensions played. in the progression of the Space Race during the 1950s and 1960s. In the process it.

  20. The Space Race and its Impact on the Cold War

    1957 Sputnik launches the space race: at the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent the first satellite into space. A stunned America reacted by jump-starting its space program, leading to the historic moon landing 12 years later. Men on the moon: a view from Moscow: in July 1969, the United States was poised to make history in space.

  21. The Social Construction of Space Technology and the Space Community

    The Social Construction of Space Technology and the Space Community A Research Paper submitted to the Department of Engineering and Society ... ever since the extremely competitive Space Race tothe Moon against the USSR (Jha, 2017). During the Space Race, interactions between the U.S.and the Soviet Union cause the social ...

  22. 80 Best Space Research Paper Topics

    How the Space Race Transformed America. The 1955 Space Race: The reason the Soviet Union lost to the USA. Space Research Topics. Space research has become popular over the last decades. It is an extensive research field that seeks to study outer space scientifically. Research topics about space are relatively easy to find considering the broad ...

  23. Space Race Research Paper

    Space Race Research Paper. 362 Words2 Pages. After World War II the new war began. It was called the Cold War. The Cold War was conflict between the two greatest powers on the earth. The United States and the Soviet Union. The two countries wanted to prove their technology, military power, economic system, and political system.

  24. Full article: Editorial introduction

    This issue of PSC features a bold theoretical exploration of the concept of freedom as it applies to the clinical space, a cultural journey into the meaning of the "evil eye," three papers exploring the use of non-traditional methodologies in self psychological treatment, a therapist's remarkable way of discovering her own hidden selves through writing, a creative use of self ...

  25. NASA touts space research in anti-cancer fight

    Space is "a unique place for research," astronaut Frank Rubio said at the event in Washington. The 48-year-old, a physician and former military helicopter pilot, conducted cancer research during ...

  26. ACS Fall 2024

    Join us in Denver, Colorado from August 18-22 to get the latest research in chemistry, network, and attend career events. The theme of this meeting is Elevating Chemistry and will explore a variety of topics such as: Elevating chemistry performance Elevating chemistry for the public good Elevating safety for graduate students Elevating chemical education Chemistry in space Elevating the ...