Origins of the Space Race & the Soviet challenge Go to
part 1 of the casahistoria Space Race site for
links to the early stages of the cold war
competition in space.
This includes links to:
- Operation Paperclip, the scheme to bring
German scientists back to the US
- Siezure of Garmen V-2 rockets & the White Sands
2. The US Response to
the Soviet challenge in Space
US Reaction to
Sputnik and the Origins of the Space Age A basic NASA
account of how Sputnik led to the setting up of NASA, 1957-8. By
Roger D. Launius who also reveals
that the Soviets timed the launch to coincide with a party at
the end of an international scientific conference for maximum
A Blow to the Nation Detailed & useful
item examining the reaction of the US and arguing that
National insecurity, wounded national pride, infighting,
political grandstanding, clandestine plots, and ruthless media
frenzy were but a few of the things the United States had to
overcome to bounce back from the blow dealt by SputniK.
Excerpted by PBS from the book Sputnik: The Shock of the Century
by Paul Dickson
David Hoffman shares his Sputnik mania
Filmmaker David Hoffman shares
footage from his feature-length documentary Sputnik Mania, which
shows how the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to
both the space race and the arms race -- and jump-started
science and math education around the world. The audio
commentary is very clear about the impact of Sputnik on the Cold
War. For once, the "comment" section is also useful concerning
the impact on people at the time.
Sputnik Stunned the World, and Its Rocket Scared the Pentagon
Article from Wired which links in the launch of Sputnik with US
fears of Soviet advance. Good animation video of Sputnik.
By Robert Lemos of US Centennial of
Sputnik and the Crisis That Followed Well sourced piece by
Roger Guillemette reveals how the
Soviets deliberately prepared world attention before the launch
for maximum impact on the US
Competition Versus Cooperation: 1959-1962 NASA article
looking at the Cold War produced the space Race rivalry between
the USA & USSR
- The Decision
to Go to the Moon: President John F. Kennedy's May 25, 1961
speech to Congress . Text, audio & images
Scan of a letter from Wernher Von Braun to Vice President
Johnson, dated 29 April 1961, providing Von Braun's personal
(not professional) assessment of United States and Soviet
capability. The analysis includes the opinion that the U.S. has
"an excellent chance" of beating the Russians to a manned lunar
landing, adding "with an all-out crash program I think we could
accomplish this objective in 1967/68."
3. Early Chaos
Vanguard (the Navy space programme)
"Plan B" - Explorer (the Army programme & von
Vanguard 1 Profile page from NASA. Clearly set out with links to
aspects of the mission If you want (a lot!) more see these NASA
Clear overview followed by detailed description of the Vanguard
Project from Encyclopedia Astronautica
Breakthrough tells the story of Vanguard (but scroll down the
page for it).. Good comparative diagrams with Sputnik-1. Chapter
Blazing the Trail by Mike Gruntman
- Satellite turns 50 years old ... in orbit! 2007 item by James
Oberg tells how the Vanguard 1 satellite is still in orbit after
197,000 Earth orbits and racking up more than 6 billion miles, and
outlines plans to retrieve it.
Satellite - a bust! US newsreel of launch explosion of
Vanguard-1. In the pre launch, note how tiny the actual satellite
Early U.S. rocket and space launch failures Video of early
launches with Pomp and Circumstance for the good launches and
Flight of the Bumblebee for the (all too many!) failures. But - the
US did make their launches public at the time, the Soviets only
after a success....
Wernher von Braun
The Explorer Story Excellent pdf "booklet" tells the historic
story (starting with the V-2's & Operation paperclip) of how the
United States responded to Sputnik. JPL designed and built -- and,
in cooperation with the Army, launched -- Explorer 1, the
first U.S. satellite and the first spacecraft ever to return
scientific data from space. Clear detail, good images.
- Explorer 1 NASA site of the first spacecraft successfully
launched by the U.S. Excellent layout includes images, animations,
diagrams. For even more technical detail see the NASA site:
- Explorer A
Clear outline and good images, diagrams from Encyclopedia
Remembering When U.S. Finally (and Really) Joined the Space
Race New York Times 2008 article recalling
the events in Huntsville following Sputnik to get Explorer
up and running as soon as possible.
Origins of the Space Race & the V-2
Click to visit the first part of the casahistoria Space Race
site for links to von Braun and the nazi V-2 programme, Operation Paperclip, the scheme to bring
German scientists back to the US and the early US White
Sands V-2 trials with von Braun & the other German
Wernher von Braun Bio and documents linking to his nazi
past from the Spartacus Educational Site
Wernher von Braun. Brief account but very extensive and
detailed career chronology.
Wernher von Braun looks mainly at his pre 1945
background. Has audio of von Braun talking about himself.
Dr. Wernher von Braun Limited bio from the Redstone
Arsenal Historical Information pages (no debate on his nazi
background, as might be expected from a site linked to his
first employers) but has useful chronology pdf and many
Remembering Wernher von Braun's German Rocket Team
Broader focus than other bios - looks at the whole team of
German scientists. By Dave Bryan, Associated Press
A Tainted Legacy Clear essay from PBS looks at the life
and career of von Braun. Does not shirk from placing him in
his Nazi context. Excerpted from Von Braun by Michael J.
Neufeld, chair of the Space History Division of the
Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
von Braun, Huntsville, and German rocket scientists New
York Times article (2007) about how Huntsville, Alabama
received the Germans - and dealt with their nazi past.
Remembering Von Braun Short essay on his importance by
Anthony Young in the The Space Review, 2006. Argues that by
handing himself over to the US, and not the USSR, von Braun
ensured US victory in the Space Race against the Soviets.
"The Disney - von Braun Collaboration and its Influence on
Space Exploration" Academic piece on the relationship
between the two. Also indicates the importance of Disney in
bringing von Braun into the public sphere by the mid 1960's.
By Mike Wright, MSFC
4. The long
catch-up: Chimps, Mercury and Gemini
Chimps in Space
Gemini - capturing the lead from the Soviets
Former astronauts List of Bios from NASA of all astronauts,
including Mercury, Gemini & Apollo. Click on a name from the
long list to find out more
on a particular astronaut.
Continued Soviet pressure
5. The final lap: the Moon
the Apollo missions
- Apollo 1, January '67:
- Soyuz 1, April '67:
Soyuz 1 Gives good account of events, but the most
useful part is the detailed chronology
of the programme at
the foot of the site which shows clearly the fact that
flight took place when the USSR was aware it was falling
behind in the Space Race, given the Gemini successes. From
Encyclopedia Astronautica. See also
soyz1712 for cutaway drawing of spacecraft
Russian cosmonaut dies in space crash BBC "On this Day"
item reporting on the disaster.
An analysis of the Soyuz-1 flight Very detailed look at
the mission from a technical point of view with maps,
diagrams, by Sven Grahn
- Apollo 11 & the moon landings
Apollo 11 (and
here for a more visual site). See also:
The Eagle has landed Interesting presentation of
original news articles, easy to read and use, from the Times
with images and context pieces set out in the form of a
newspaper front page. (At the moment this is free access but
could change...). Sections of images, maps items on: Men on
the moon; The Build Up; Final
checks; The Flight; Reaction;
Happy Return; Questions Raised and a
July 20, 1969: One Giant Leap For Mankind The story from
NASALIFE Magazine (In the 1960's
they had the sole rights to use photos of the US Space
Programme)photo galleries. Even more amazing shots!
missions after Soyuz 1
- Later missions
Apollo 13 access key NASA resources.
here for a more visual site)
Explosion threatens Apollo 13 mission
presentation of original news articles on Apollo 13, easy to
read and use, from the Times with images and context pieces
set out in the form of a newspaper front page. (At the
moment this is free access but could change...). Has an
- Apollo Links For a massive list of non- NASA and NASA
links to the Apollo programme also see this NASA page
Hear the Space Pioneers Buzz Aldrin on that
first-ever landing. Jim Lovell on the terror of Apollo 13.
Listen to the compelling stories of these and other Apollo
luminaries who got us to the moon. PBS
Explore the Moon Join the Apollo astronauts on the
surface in this series of stunning 360-degree panoramas
(QTVRs), one each from the six successful Apollo moon
Watch and listen to useful clips from
past BBC programmes on the Apollo Moon Programme. These
America lands a man on the moon
Astronauts see the dark side of the Moon
for the first time.
The United States lands astronauts on the
Astronauts visit a robotic probe on the
Astronauts narrowly survive an explosion
on the way to the Moon.
Astronauts drive a lunar rover on the Moon
for the first time.
Astronauts explore the Moon's Descartes
becomes the only scientist to walk on the Moon.
Why the USSR
lost the Space Race to the Moon
The Soviet Race to the Moon Useful overview article from
Centennial of Flight outlining the key developments in the
Soviet lunar (race?) programme in the 1960's by
Asif A. Siddiqi.
Manned Lunar Programme shows the sad story of
Soviet efforts to match the USA manned moon programme.
What Went Wrong? Brief look at the failure of the N-1 lunar
rocket programme for a manned moon mission from the Smithsonian.
rocket secrets revealed BBC item from 2002 describes details
of the then released Soviet manned moon mission rocket being
tested in the 1960's for a hoped for 1968 moon landing
N-1 moon rocket
Excellent detail and development history of the projected manned
moon mission rocket from
Encyclopedia Astronautica showing how it failed to
meet expectations. By looking at the detailed chronology this
also outlines quite clearly the failure of the Soviets to meet
the final US manned space challenge in the Space Race.
Luna 16 Launched just after Apollo 11 & 12 this
was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a
sample to Earth and the first lunar sample return mission by the
Soviet Union and the third overall, following the Apollo 11 and
The Soviet Lunar Program and the Space Race PBS item
compares the Soviet failures with the growing Apollo confidence
Space Race Diary of Soviet Red Air Force General Nikolai Kaminin
which began in 1961 with President John F. Kennedy's call to put
a man on the moon within the decade, in a direct challenge to
Soviet space supremacy. Interesting insight into the impact of
Why Did the USSR Lose the Moon Race? 2002 article from
Pravda which argues
the USSR lost due the failure of
its lunar rocket,
the N1. This in turn reflected the economic weakness of the
country with the USA greatly outspending the USSR. So the USSR
lost the technical race with the USA.
Most of all
the debacle can be explained it argues by the weakness of the
Soviet state management as well. There was nothing in the USSR
like NASA in the United States.
Why did the Soviet Union lose the Moon Race? Good clear
piece from Encyclopedia
Astronautica, set out very thoroughly with the use of headings
and subheadings to make arguments evident. Very useful.
Space Race Lost: Russians Remember An article using
interviews with Russians involved with the Space Race. gives
insight to support arguments made in the two articles above.
By Adam Tanner
Why the Soviets Never Beat the U.S. to the Moon 1997
Interview With Charles P. Vick, A Soviet space expert who
discusses how declassified material confirmed his painstaking
discoveries over decades about why the Soviet Union was unable
to win the space race.
Cosmos unmasked: studying Soviet and Russian space history in
the 21st century A more difficult piece from Space
review which looks at how open Russia is today to critical
examination of its Space Race history
6. Results & Legacy for the Cold War
The ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile)
Spy & Communications Satellites
Technological innovation beyond weapons
NASA Spinoffs - Apollo Inventions article looks at some of
the main developments in everyday use to have come from the
More giant leaps? Magazine article looks forty years on, at
how the Apollo 11 lunar mission still has an effect on industry.
Overall conclusion on
the Space Race
Sites on the Space Race
Astronautica Excellent resource. Well detailed and usefully
set out with an introduction followed by detailed chronologies
Space Race Time Line Interactive guide to the Race from V2's
through to the Moon missions. Good introduction from PBS. Ignore
the Flash version - it is very slow to load...
Space Race Overview site from History channel. Has clear
layout with easy links to Cold War related aspects & video
Racing To The Moon Online exhibition from the Smithsonian
looks concisely at the main stages in the Space Race. (click on
the left sidebar for topics!)
Space history notes. An excellent resource with detailed
articles that provide a technical slant to the narrative. many
useful orbital maps, diagrams as well as clear explanations. By
Space disasters and near misses Outlines the (over 100!)
deaths and casualties to both USA & USSR during the Space Race
in the 1960's
Series Publications NASA has many, many sites, but
navigation across them is very hit & miss. I am not sure if NASA
themselves know what they have!. However here is a useful page
of links to their list of Documents available, many of which are
Sites on the Cold War
War Basic outlines of key events from Spartacus Educational.
Good place to make a start and
War Figures -
biographies of major figures from this time period.
War Excellent school
resource for students beginning to look at the Cold War
- The Cold War
International History Project (CWIHP) Useful site presenting
new information and perspectives on the history of the Cold War,
in particular new findings from previously inaccessible sources
from the former Communist world.
Vint Hill Cold War
MuseumUseful online museum that is easy to use
with links to virtual exhibits, overview articles, photo
galleries, documents, newsletters and many other collections of
cold war related material set out clearly by decade.
History: Cold War a series of articles on key aspects of the
Cold War from the BBC educational site.
The Cold War Files Very good site produced by Wilson Center
for Peace for interpreting history of the Cold War through
Documents. Includes clear overview items on events and bios on
European Navigator Useful
topic documents (speeches/actual agreements/ newspaper articles
& images on the post 1945 period from a west European
perspective. Use the " historical events" folder on the
left to find your area of study. Well produced by the European
Avalon Project at Yale Excellent range of documents from the
20th Century Documents : 1900 - 1999 list
The CAESAR, POLO, and ESAU Papers This thorough collection
of declassified analytic monographs and reference aids,
designated within the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Directorate of Intelligence (DI) as the CAESAR, ESAU, and POLO
series, highlights the CIA's efforts from the 1950s through the
mid-1970s to pursue in-depth research on Soviet and Chinese
internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations. The documents
reflect the views of seasoned analysts who had followed closely
their special areas of research and whose views were shaped in
often heated debate.
the casahistoria Cold War sites:
Origins of the Cold War
Divided Germany, 1945-49
Thaw to Cuban Missile Crisis
Detente and China
End of the Cold War