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Brendan Tschuy

The Soviet-American Struggle for World Superiority

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, -President John F. Kennedy 12 September 19621

The era of the Space Race is essentially an arbitrary designation for a time of particularly high technological animosity between the Soviet Union and the United States. The two countries had been at odds with each other for years already, but the Space Race from 1957 to 1975 marked and epitomized a struggle based primarily on fear and defensive fortification.

The space race is consequential today because of the significant impact it had on the road to American economic and military supremacy across the globe. The era exemplifies the capabilities of the American people when united; the seemingly impossible was achieved.2

The space race grew out of increasing fears among Americans and Soviets that the other country would be able to control the globe through aerial superiority in outer space The US and USSR had been at odds since the end of the Second World War and the construction of the Berlin Wall

1957: The Soviet Union successfully launches Sputnik, the worlds first artificial satellite 1961: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes first man in space 1962: JFK gives historic speech at Rice University, promising to land on the moon before the decades end 1969: American Neil Armstrong becomes the first man on the moon

Early Soviet achievements were seen as a huge blow to American security and pride. The nuclear arms race was another key event in the Cold War, and newly-developed rocketscarriers for intercontinental ballistic missiles offered a happy medium with which to blow the world into smithereens.3 The launching of Sputnik was a risk to both public and worldwide security. It marked the ability of the USSR to launch nuclear missiles, as well as an increased persuasive ability of the Soviets to spread communism across the world.5

$25 billion spent in the United States on the Apollo Program throughout the 1960s. The total budget of the country was around $100 billion per year during the 60s. NASA consumed between 1.4% and 5.5% of the national budget during the space race; as of 2010, the agency receives 0.5%.8 Outside the United States, the space race had a powerful and lingering effect as well: art, architecture, and fashion all took hints from the incoming space age and changed accordingly, according to the BBC.9

The Space Race has resulted in the United States being the dominant powerby farin space, in terms of both military and domestic capabilities. The United States Air Force has registered 1,100 satellites in orbit around the planet; none of these would exist without the significant technological gains made during the Cold War.6 A more mundane but still relevant effect of the space race is satellite-driven television and telephone capabilities. An estimated 27 million people used one of the two in 2010.7 The most important creation of the space race was the Buck Rogers cartoon

The space race brought space exploration into the limelight, and encouraged scientific research of all kinds. One of the key developments during the Space Age era was the Buck Rogers novella. Regardless of its childish appearance, Buck Rogers was a direct contributor to public awareness of space exploration.

The Cold War, while an immense drain on national resources throughout its duration, resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eventual emergence of the United States as the dominant power on the planet. The space race demonstrated the ability of the American people to overcome obstacles when united; the United States has not worked toward a common goal since.


John F. We Choose to Go to the Moon. Rice University, Houston, TX. 12 Sept 1962. 2Wilford, John N. "The Space Race." New York Times. New York Times, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. <>. 3Collins, Martin. Space race: the U.S.-U.S.S.R. competition to reach the moon. Rohnert Park, CA: Pomegranate Communications Inc, 1999. Print. 4Antill, P.. "The Space Race." The History of War. 12 Jan. 2001. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <>. 5Krock, Arthur. "Effects of the Sputnik Thus Far." New York Times 9 Oct. 1957: 1. New York Times. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <>. 6Harrison, Roger, et al. "Space and Defense." Scholarly Journal of the United States Air Force Academy 4.2 (2010): 1-84. Web. 11 Dec. 2010. < l_Vol_4_No_2_files/Space_and_Defense_4_2.pdf>. 7Committee on Commerce, . Reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewers Act. 1999. Print. 8Braastad, Richard. "Putting NASA's Budget in Perspective." Richard Braastad. 2000. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. <>. 9"Scotland in the Sixties." BBC. BBC, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2010. <>.