Space Race 1960s: The Explorer - ESL 100

Space Race 1960s: The Explorer
Shanrui Yong (Ray)
Teddy Chocos
“10 …3, 2, 1, 0 All engines running, liftoff on Apollo 11.” On July 16th 1969, Apollo 11
lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After four-day space journey with 238,900
miles from earth, Neil Armstrong became the first astronaut who arrived on the moon and
represented all mankind to leave his first footprint on the lunar surface. This great event will
always be remained in Americans’ memory. More importantly, successfully landing on the moon
was one of the best milestones in human’s technological progress. However, the United States
was the laggard at the beginning of the competition with the Soviet Union. During the
International Geophysical Year (1957-1958), both nations made the plan to launch their satellites
into space. The first satellite Sputnik I was successfully set by the Soviet Union on October 4,
1957. At that time, the United States was still working on a launch vehicle. The success of
Sputnik I acted as a wake-up call to make the Americans realize that they were lagging far
behind their competitor, the Soviet Union, in the development of space technology. Furthermore,
Americans feared that the Soviet Union would have the ability to launch the missiles, which
could carry the nuclear weapons, and treat the United States as one of its targets. As a result,
President Eisenhower established a new department called the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) in 1958 to oversee the space program and to make sure that the United
States could catch up to the Soviet Union. From this establishment, the space race had officially
During the period of competition with the Soviet Union, the United States gradually
established its global power through each progressive step of the exploration of space. Before the
Apollo mission, moonwalk was a daydream that only existed in movies and science fictions.
However, Americans successfully made this dream to be true. In 1961, President John F.
Kennedy gave a speech in the public. He announced, “I believe that this nation should commit
itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning
him safely to earth”. Then he claimed, “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, because that goal will serve to
organize and measure the best of our energies and skills…” By the president’s mobilization,
Americans worked together to achieve their common goal which other nations seemed
impossible to obtain. In the chapter “The Frontier Heritage” of the book “American Ways: An
Introduction to American Culture”, Maryanne Kearny Datesman points out, “Americans like to
believe that a difficult problem can be solved immediately- an impossible one may take a little
longer. They take pride in meeting challenges and overcoming difficult obstacles.” (p. 86) This
lifestyle is so productive that brings wealth and prosperity to this nation. In the space race,
Americans showed their attitude and efforts, that “nothing is impossible for Americans”. Only
eight years after the President Kennedy’s speech, like his promise, Americans proved once more
that they were the best when Neil Armstrong took the first moonwalk in 1969.
From imagination to reality, Apollo 11 would restore the nation’s self-confidence and
rebuild its status to be the world leader. When Neil Armstrong went out the lunar lander and
walked on the moon surface at the first time, millions of people on the earth heard his famous
quote: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He did not only represent
to all American people, but also represent to all people in the world that this event of space
exploration would become a part of human’s history. Meanwhile, Apollo mission reflected the
great optimism of 1960s American liberalism regarding the feasibility of big technological
projects. Armstrong realized the ideal of the independent American pioneers in a more
technological time. In the fourth chapter of article “Live from the Moon: The societal impact of
Apollo”, Andrew Chaikin states, “By winning the space race with the Soviet Union, Apollo had
given a boost to the nation’s prestige in the world and, for many Americans, a heightened a sense
of national pride.” (p. 66) Americans were proud that they were a part of their nation when the
American flag was set on the moon. Also by winning the space race, the United States exhibited
the super power of all Americans to the globe and became the leader of the world. Considering
the original designing of the Stars and Stripes, each of the states was represented on the
American flag by a star, as there were no difficulties that Americans couldn’t overcome when the
United States became the one.
The space technology development also directly benefitted people’s daily life. Nowadays,
people could easily experience the profits which were derived from the space program. For
example, in each day, while using the mobile devices, such as GPS and cellphones which
transfer the information via satellites, people successfully get convenience from them. When
people decide to bring umbrellas after they get the weather forecast updated on their phones or
televisions, they can obtain accurate prediction. Many different fields benefit from space
technology development as well and most of them can support people’s life better. In the field of
health and medicine, people can see the effectiveness that a life can be saved when a heart
defibrillator restores the proper rhythm of a patient’s heart. Also the weather satellites protect
people’s lives when they receive the warning about the coming typhoon. All in one word, the
space technology has become a significant part of people’s daily life.
Through the space technology development, human beings take science and exploration
into a new millennium. At the beginning of the space technology development, Americans were
so helpless that they had to rely on themselves, but they successfully used their invention and
creation to make many history events. Like the early American pioneers used the inventive skills
to live in the western land, they did not only provide most of the essentials for their daily life, but
also faced new problems and situations which required new solutions. In the book “American
Ways: An Introduction to American Culture”, Datesman points out that “The need for selfreliance on the frontier encouraged a spirit of inventiveness.” (p. 85) The early frontiers didn’t
rely on others’ help too much, but believed that they could solve the problems with their own
hands and brains. Through the history, the frontier’s innovations and creations are the most
important factors which helped the nation keep strong and wealthy. Americans used their
creativity to start a new chapter of the history of space exploration.
The event that Soviet Soyuz craft docked with the American Apollo 18 represented the
end of the space race. However, the race made the two nations closely connect; they seemed
more to be cooperators than competitors. In fact, the cooperation continues to exist between the
Russian and U.S. space programs in building and servicing the International Space Station (ISS).
After the U.S. Space Shuttle move to retirement by 2011, the Russian and Chinese Space
program have the only operation manned space programs, and personnel adjust at ISS would rely
on Russian transport. Therefore, to explore the solar system in the future need each nation make
their own contribution, which required they work in cooperation with a due division of labor. In
the fourth chapter of the article “Live From The Moon: The societal impact of Apollo”, Andrew
Chaikin states, “No matter how far humans are able to go in their quest to explore the universe,
the Apollo missions will stand as the opening chapter.” While the NASA already set the goal for
exploring the Mars, and human beings will continue to explore further. The Apollo program’s
significance is not only to send a man on the moon, but also represent that humans have the
ability to accomplish seemingly impossible things when they work together.
Americans never stop to explore the world. The United States set the goal that Americans
will be back to the moon before 2020. It is not only for another history event, but also for
humans to be on the way to conquer space. Datesman agrees when he includes the quote from
Frederick Jackson Turner, an American historian in the early 20th century, “This ever-retreating
frontier of free land is the key to American development.” (p. 77) Americans inherit the can-do
spirit from the frontier, which is the most important factor that makes the progress for exploring
the free land. Americans never stop to explore, since the last western lands were settled in 1890,
they wait for a long time to explore the new land. Now, exploring moon is only a beginning. On
the whole, Americans make the greatest contribution for mankind space technology development
through the space race. The desire of freedom and the need to explore free land will drive
Americans to make another history event in the near future.
Work Cited
Datesman, Maryanne Kearny.
American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture / Maryanne Kearny Datesman,
JoAnn Crandall, Edward N. Kearny.—Fourth edition.
Andrew, Chaikin.
"Live from the Moon: The Societal Impact of Apollo." Societal Impact of Spaceflight:
Werth, Karsten.
"A Surrogate for War—The U.S. Space Program in the 1960s." Amerikastudien /
American Studies 49.4 (2004): 563-87. JSTOR. Web. 18 May 2014.