The Space Race was a competition between Cold War rivals, the United States and the Soviet Union, to achieve superior spaceflight capability. It started during the nuclear arms race after World War II, as both superpowers worked to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for delivering nuclear warheads.
Stages of the Space Race
The development of missiles
The development of satellites
Human space flight
The creation of deep space exploration probes
The moon landing
There were two primary causes of the Space Race.
First, political leaders viewed developing missile and space technologies as necessary for national security. The Americans and the Soviets first developed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to deliver warheads anywhere in the world. These missile technologies later became the vehicles that launched satellites and humans into space.
Second, by the late 1950s, out-competing one another in reaching significant milestones (see chart below) in space exploration became a matter of national pride and a demonstration of superiority. Both powers invested substantial money in math and science education and developing new space technologies.
The first successful test flight of an ICBM
R-7 launched by the Soviet Union on August 21
The first artificial satellite in orbit
Sputnik 1 launched by the Soviet Union on October 4
The first human in space
Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union launched into space on April 12
The human walks on the moon
American Neil Armstrong walked on the moon on July 20,
Despite the Soviet Union’s incredible accomplishments, most historians believe the United States won the Space Race because they landed men on the moon—which the Soviets never achieved.
The Space Race’s main impact was its benefit to scientific progress and the invention of new technologies now used in our daily lives.
Medical and safety technologies and practices