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What Is The Space Race History Essay


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The space race, a race to see who could make it to space first. It had origin ties to the arms race between America and the Soviet Union. The purpose of this research paper will be to get information on just what the space race was. Along with that, the following questions will be answered: What events lead up prior to the space race? What was America's and the Soviet Union's involvement in it? And finally, what were the end results of the Space Race?

What was the space race? It was a competition to see which of the two nations could advance the fastest in aeronautics. It started in 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite. It was called Sputnik. Both the United States and the Soviet Union leaders believed that conquering space was important. This would not only show their scientific superiority but it would also show how much their military strength had grown. The final destination for each nation was the moon. To get there first meant that it would bring the country immense media coverage. As a consequence, the scientists and government would under a lot of pressure.

There were a lot that led up prior to the space race. One of which was a Russian named Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. He established the basics of rocket science. He made a rocket equation which determines the velocity of flight. That equation is still used today in modern rockets. Along with that, he also wrote the first theoretical description of an artificial satellite. The Germans also made a rocket called the A-4 rocket. It was first launched in 1942 and was the first rocket to reach space. It was also able to carry 2,200 lbs of weight. Even though it was made for use in the military, the technology behind made it useful to develop shuttles and rockets to reach the moon. The Cold War was a big event that led to the space race. The United States came out of Wold War II with a huge amount of strategic bomber force and also had advanced bases in countries that were close to the Soviet Union. Since the Soviet Union did not have equal amount weapons and bases, they started producing rockets and ballistic missiles capable of intercontinental range. They made this a top priority for them. The development in rockets had a dual purpose. If they could make a rocket to reach the moon, said rocket could also be used to carry an atomic bomb to a specific city. Thus, the advancements in rockets could be used peacefully or they could be used for military actions.

Both countries had huge involvements in the space race. On the Soviet side, the ICBM created the world's first satellite launcher. It then sent the first artificial satellite called Sputnik into orbit on October 4, 1957. Then in November of that same year, the soviets launched Sputnik 2. This one had a dog on board with it. These two satellite launches announced to the world that if they could build a rocket that could reach earth orbit, they could also launch an intercontinental missile from orbit to any American city. Because of this, Eisenhower started to step up plans for the United States first satellite. It was scheduled to launch in 1958. On December 6, the first attempt at launching a booster called Vanguard ended in failure. It rose only a few feet off the ground before falling back to Earth and exploded. Hope then rested in the U.S. Army's rocket team. This team was headed by a German who led the development of the V 2 missile. His name was Wernher von Braun. He had success at launching America's first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958. The rocket that launched the satellite was called Jupiter C. The Soviets however, were still in the lead at this time. After several launch failures, they were able to fire a small probe, called Luna 1, past the moon. They missed the moon by 3,100 miles. This all happened in January 1959. On September 14, Luna 2 struck the lunar surface. This was the first artificial object to reach another celestial body. Then in early October, Luna 3 was able to swing around the moon. It went back the first pictures of the hidden side of the moon. American in the mean time was suffering a series of embarrassing failures. The failures were coming from the Pioneer spacecraft which was designed to explore the moon's environment. Most of the launches had failed to reach Earth orbit. More than one of the ones that were able to achieve orbit blew up before making it to space. Pioneer 4 was able to make it to space. Launched in March 1959, it achieved lunar distance. It missed the moon by 37,500 miles. In April of 1959, seven pilots were picked by NASA to serve as astronauts for Project Mercury. This purpose of this project was to put man in orbit. NASA engineers picked a small cone-shaped capsule as the design for the mission. The engineers were led by Robert Gilruth. The capsule weighed only 1.94 metric tons. The Soviet's Vostok weighed 5 metric tons. NASA planned to take several suborbital flights. In these flights, the astronaut would only be in space for a few minutes of the 15 minute ride. The ride down would consist with the capsule parachuting its way down all the way to Earth's surface. It would make its landing in the ocean and would be recovered by navy ships. The capsule was designed to allow the astronaut to have some control over the flight. NASA used chimpanzees instead of dogs as their test subjects. The final intended test flight before human launch was on January 31, 1961. It was powered by a Redstone rocket that was developed by Braun's team. The flight had experienced minor problems. Because of this, Braun wanted to do one more unoccupied test flight. If the original schedule had been followed, the United States would have been the first to put a human in space. The Soviets had a plan to put the first man in space as well. They were designing a spacecraft that could have a dual purpose. One purpose was to conduct photo reconnaissance missions and would return the exposed film to Earth. The other purpose was to have the vehicle be used for the first human spaceflight missions. The vehicle was known has Object K. However it was called Vostok with it carried a human to space. The craft had two sections. The passenger compartment was a spherical capsule and a conical module that had all the instruments. The crew capsule was covered with a thermal coating for protection during reentry. The craft was designed so that the passenger could not touch any control from launch to the landing. He would not land with the craft either. It would eject him at an altitude of 4.3 miles and parachute down to dry land. The craft would land nearby with its own parachutes. The Soviets used dogs and human dummies as test subjects in their test flights. The first person in space was Yury Gagarin. He rode up in Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961, which was atop a modified R-7 rocket. The United States next objective was to plan a trip to the moon. The Gemini project was made to provide more research on the capabilities of space flight and to find out whether a human could live in space for long periods of time. The Gemini spacecraft was made up of two components. One was a reentry module. This housed the two astronauts. The other was an adapter that had a retrorocket section and an equipment section. The craft looked like a scaled-up version of Mercury. It however was a lot more sophisticated. The Gemini astronauts were, for the first time, able to change their orbit with thrusters. The rocket that carried the Gemini craft into space was the Air Force's Titan 2 ballistic missile. The various Gemini space flights were able to prove many key factors that would make a lunar voyage possible. It proved that a human could survive two weeks in space, were able to make a rendezvous in space, and were also able to make a space docking. The Soviet's project that attempted to go to the moon was named Zond. It was canceled however and since then the Soyuz craft was used to take cosmonauts to space stations in Earth orbit. The United States however furthered their attempts to make it to the moon. After the success of the Gemini project, the Apollo program was constructed. The NASA engineers decided to design a lunar orbit rendezvous technique. This required two spacecraft. One would ferry three astronauts to and from the moon and the other one would take two of them to the lunar surface. The rocket they picked was the Saturn V. This was the largest rocket ever successfully flown. There were eleven manned Apollo missions. Six of those missions landed successfully on the lunar surface. They conducted scientific explorations and took samples. They also set up instruments that sent data back to Earth.

What are the end results of the space race? America won the race to the moon which was the primary goal of the race. The Soviets had been ahead in the beginning. They were the first ones to get to space and were also the first ones to send a man to space. The United States were the first to put one in orbit and did the first space walk. After they got ahead, they were able to keep going in front of the Soviet Union. We now have space exploration and instruments on the moon as a result. We might have had these without the space race, but it would have taken longer for the amount of progress to be done without the pressure. Another result is that both the United States and the Soviet Union were able to develop long range intercontinental missiles. The ability to launch a satellite is space enabled mankind to setup relay stations in the sky to transmit all kinds of information around the world.

The space race was a competition to see what nation would make it the farthest in rocket development to be used for space travel and military use. It had ties to the arms race that was also going on. The Cold War was also going on at this time. We now know what it was, the involvement of each nation, and the end results that came out of it.

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