Nationalism During the Space Race Essay

Nationalism During the Space Race Essay

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American nationalism during the Space Race fueled support for NASA, resulting in great technological and scientific advancements during the Cold War. The hyper-competitive atmosphere surrounding the Cold War heightened already existing rivalry between the United States’ and the Soviet Union’s science programs. As the two superpowers struggled for technological dominance, the American people were swept into a frenzy of nationalism. The Science News-Letter pointed out that the Space Race was driven by, “nothing more or less than the ego-driven pressures of competition.” The idea of the Soviet Union both having a superior space program as well as having the capacity to attack the United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) brought the U.S. space program off the ground.
The Space Race is remarkably similar to that of the arms race because of the parallel between the creation of the atomic bomb and the goal of reaching the moon. The United States’ bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki effectively established its place as the technologically superior nation; however, major milestones in space achieved early by the Soviets damaged America’s reputation. In 1957, Soviet scientists shocked the world by successfully launching the Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, beyond the Kármán Line (the boundary of space). This amazing breakthrough “rattled American self-confidence. It cast doubts on America’s vaunted scientific superiority and raised some sobering military questions.” This blow to national pride along with the fear that the Soviets could potentially launch ICBMs from space led to “Rocket fever”. The sudden wave of nationalism and the desire to build a space program worthier to that of the Soviet Union led to the...

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...h, 2013.

Eberhart, Jonathan. “Space Race Pace Quickens” The Science News-Letter (1965): 387, (accessed April 16, 2014). (Primary Source)

Byrnes, Mark E. Politics and Space: Image Making by NASA. (1994): 7, 52, 73, 170, (accessed April 16, 2014).

Sitkoff, Harvard. Postwar America: A Student Companion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Gregory, Ross. Cold War America: 1946 to 1990. New York, NY: Facts on File, 2003.
McQuaid, Kim. The Space Age at the Grass Roots: NASA in Cleveland, 1958-1990. (2006): 114, (accessed April 18, 2014).

Kennedy, John F. “1962 Rice University Transcript.” John F. Kennedy: Presidential Library and Museum. (accessed April 17, 2014). (Primary Source)

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