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The Race To The Moon. Essay

1267 words - 5 pages

When World War II had ended, the young Soviet engineer Sergei P. Korolev, along with Vladimir Glushko were sent to Germany to study what bits of the V2 program the Americans had left them. It was not much, but there was enough for the Soviets to start a rocket-testing program of their own. In 1946 at the Kupustin Yar range several rockets were tested, but with no real success. No real progress was made until after Stalin's death in 1953.When Korolev heard of the Americans plans to launch a satellite during the year of International Geophysics, he suggested that the Soviets should do the same. Korolev knew that his R-7 rocket was capable of carrying a load of up to 4,400 pounds, more than enough to carry a small satellite. On October 4 1957 Sputnik I weighing just over 194 pounds was launched. A month later Sputnik II was launched, it carried a payload of 1,100 pounds. It also carried the first living creature into space, Laika the dog.The Americans where not at all happy about the Soviet space activity and saw it as an insult to their national pride. Millions of dollars were poured into keeping up with the Soviets. The space race had begun.The National Air and Space Administration or NASA, was formed in 1958, and von Braun's team joined this new body in 1960.Project Mercury was a rushed attempt to keep up with the Soviets. In 1958 the giant Saturn series of boosters were in development, these would eventually replace all other boosters. Unfortunately for the Americans, Project Mercury was started too soon and had to use the currently existing Redstone and Atlas rockets. These modified intercontinental ballistic missiles could only carry a limited payload; therefore the Mercury spacecraft had to be very small.By 1960 test flights were ready to begin. In January 1961 after several mishaps, the Americans sent a chimpanzee up in a ballistic flight, but not into orbit.Their goal was to send a man into space, but once again the Soviets beat them to it. On the 12th of April 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched from the space center at Tyuratam inVostok 1. He completed one orbit of the Earth and landed safely after a flight that lasted less than 2 hours. The Soviets had been careful to mislead the Americans by calling the missions that led up to Gagarin's flight Sputnik launches instead of Vostok launches. The Vostok spacecraft was far bigger than the American Mercury, over 24 feet long. This included the final stage, which held the pilot, and instruments for observation.Three weeks later the Americans put a man into space. Alan Shepard was sent up in Mercury capsule called Freedom 7, perched on top of a Redstone rocket. His flight lasted a mere 15 minutes. Once again the Americans had finished a poor second in what they were calling the space race.While the Americans did not look to good in space, they were already pushing a major research and development program targeting the moon. The Apollo spaceship was in development as well as the giant...

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