In the 1950s, this battle would look upward and space would become another ground for technology and military competition. Space exploration served as a dramatic arena for Cold War competition. On October 4th, 1957 the Soviets scored an epic win as America watched in disbelief; the Soviets launched an R-7 intercontinental ballistic missile. With the successful placement of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into the Earth’s orbit, the space race was begun in earnest. Vaulting ahead of America, “the small satellite brought the Soviet Union into the technological spotlight and demonstrated that the country was capable of modern feats” (Staff, 2010).
Americans were terrified! The possibility of war lingered in every household as the Soviets had just demonstrated a military capability that the United States could not match. “The R-7 rocket stage that carried Sputnik into orbit was easily visible from the ground, shining with about the same brightness as the stars Spica or Antares” (Howell, 2012). This visual reminder orbited the earth for nearly 90 days. America believed that if the Soviets could use the R-7 rocket to deliver Sputnik into space, then it was possi...
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...ollo spacecraft that docked in orbit with a Soviet-made Soyuz vehicle” (Staff, 2010). When the commanders from each country officially greeted each other, “their handshake in space served to symbolize the gradual improvement of U.S.-Soviet relations” (Staff, 2010).
Although the Cold War was not over, this partnership allowed for the gradual de-escalation of tensions between the two sides. As the partnership grew, the challenge for both sides was determining where to go next. “While the Americans eventually pursued the development of the space shuttle, the Soviets embarked on a program to place crews in space for extended periods of time by building the Salyut series of orbital space stations” (Logsdon & Sagdeev, 2008). What had started as a competition between two countries at odds with each other, transformed into an age of cooperative exploration and discovery.
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