Space Race: Americans vs. Soviets

by Jasmine Geonzon

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During the late 1950s into the early 1970s, the United States and the Soviet Union were constantly neck and neck fighting as the two countries attempted to establish dominance over each other in the final frontier: outer space. As both countries were political rivals during this time and on opposing sides of the Cold War, the tension regarding politics spilled over into space race, making superiority over the other country much more appealing.
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While the battling nations argued over bragging rights regarding space exploration, they also held each other in contempt for having governments polar opposites than their own. Both countries were eager to put their rival to shame and constantly released new innovations to get the lead in this ongoing race. Actions that were sure to aggravate the other country, such as the construction of the Berlin Wall, only fueled the fire and superiority became an even bigger incentive for large movement to invest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education to help the respective countries gain the edge they needed to get hot, new technology out and on display to the world before intelligence agents relayed the plans back to their home countries. Though this competitiveness began as a way to showcase the militaristic abilities of each nation, it evolved into a showcase for the brilliant minds within the countries' astronautics departments.

"We have a long way to go in the space race. We started late. But this is the new ocean, and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none."

-President John F. Kennedy, 1962
Despite having dubious motivations, the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union is one of the best things to happen to Twentieth-century science. Without the drive coming from showing primacy over the USSR at the time, it's doubtful that the United States, possibly any other country for that matter, would have taken the leap and decided to risk money into new science programs that still exist to this day. The national effort to stop communism was specifically evident during the Space Race as for one of the rare times in American history, the entire nation rallied behind NASA in support of scientific advancement.