Category Archives: Space Race

The Race to the Moon

May 25, 1961 in a speach to joint Houses of Congress, JFK proposes sending a man to the moon:  “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 the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish… ..This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always  characterized our research and development efforts.”

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Apollo 10

May 18, 1968 Apollo 10, the last of the Apollo missions that did not land on the moon, launched on its 8 day voyage.  It was basically a dry run of all systems that would be used in the moon landing of the Apollo 11 mission. Its success ensured that the United States would beat the Soviet Union and win the Race to the Moon.

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Greetings From Earth

March 2, 1972 – The Pioneer 10 Space Probe blasts off from Cape Canaveral.  The first spacecraft to leave our solar system, (which it did on June 13, 1983) the Pioneer 10 is now somewhere out in interstellar space headed in the direction of the Aldebaran which it should reach in another 2 million years or so.  We lost contact in 2003.  Aboard is this plaque meant to give our neighbors some idea of who we are and where they can find us.

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Filed under 1970s, Space Race, Technology

The Right Stuff

February 20, 1963 –  John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth and the fifth man in space. His ship, the Friendship 7, circled the earth 3 times in 5 hours, 55 minutes and 23 seconds culminating Project Mercury (1959 – 1963) whose objective was to put a human in orbit around the earth.

Glen was a Marine Corp pilot and veteran of WWII and joined NASA as part of the original astronaut group in 1959. He resigned from NASA in January 1964 to pursue a political campaign, but was forced to resign from the campaign after suffering a concussion and damage to his inner ear. He was a confidant of the Kennedy family and was with Robert Kennedy’s entourage when he was assassinated in 1968. He was elected to the US Senate from Ohio in 1974 and served there until 1999. On October 29, 1998 John Glen made his second space flight aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery as part of a study on the effects of space travel on the elderly. Today he is 90 and the last surviving member of the Mercury 7.

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Where’s the 19th hole?

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On February 6, 1974 Allan Shepard, who had been the first American in space in 1961, was commander of Apollo 14 mission.  He created a golf club by attaching a 6 iron to a lunar scoop handle and managed to be the first man to play golf on the moon.  Unfortunately, he was unable to follow up with the customary martini.

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Touchdown!

February 3, 1966 – The Space Race is now in full gear and the Soviets achieved another first by safely landing a spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

The Soviet Space Program had achieved a series of firsts including:

  • the first satellite (Sputnik 1),
  • first animal (Laika the dog),
  • first man (Yuri Gagarin),
  • first woman (Valentina Tereshkova),
  • the first spacewalk (Alexey Lenov),
  • the first impact on the moon (Lunik 2),
  • and the first images from the dark side of the moon (Lunik 3).

The Soviet Lunik 9 was a soft landing and produced the first image ever transmitted from the lunar surface.  It weighed just over 200 pounds and landed at about 34 mph in a hermetically sealed bag.  It’s landing proved the lunar surface was able to support a spacecraft that did not sink into the lunar soil.  The four petals that covered the top half on the craft opened to stabilized the craft and the antennas moved into position and began to survey the area.  For unknown reasons, the first images transmitted back to earth were not immediately published by the Soviets, and the British rushed to intercept and publish them.

In the race to the moon, this achievement gave the Soviets another psychological victory and the Americans struggled to keep up with Soviet striving to surpass them hopefully winning the Cold War. Slowly the tide would turn, and the American Apollo Program would take the lead.

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Filed under 1960s, Space Race, Technology, USSR