By the 1950s, the Cold War had worked its way into everyday life in both countries, because of the arms race and the threat of nuclear weapons, tensions would continue throughout the space race, instigated by events like the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile incident, and the war in Southeast Asia. Space exploration served as another dramatic area for competition. On October 4, 1957, a Soviet R-7 ballistic missile launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite and the first man made object to be placed into space. Sputnik’s launch came as a surprise to most Americans. In the United States, space was seen as the next big adventure and it was crucial not to lose too much ground to the Soviets. In 1958 the U.S. launched its own satellite, Explorer I, designed by rocket scientist Wernher von Braun (as seen in the movie). That same year, Dwight Eisenhower signed a public order creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a national agency specializing in space exploration. Eisenhower also created two national space programs that would operate with NASA’s program. The first, led by the Air Force, dedicated itself to the military possibilities of space. The second, led by the CIA, the Air Force and a new organization called the National Reconnaissance Office. It would use orbiting satellites to gather information on the Soviet Union. In 1959, the Soviet space program took another step forward with the launch of the first space probe to hit the moon. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit Earth, traveling in the spacecraft Vostok 1. For the U.S. effort to send a man into space NASA engineers designed a smaller, cone shaped capsule much lighter than the one used by the Soviets. They tested the craft with chimpanzees, and held a final test flight in 1961 before the Soviets were able to pull ahead with Gagarin’s launch. On May 5, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Later that May, President John F. Kennedy made the bold, public claim that the U.S. would land a man on the moon before the 70s. In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, and by the end of that year, the foundations of NASA’s lunar landing program were in place. From 1961 to 1964, NASA’s budget was increased almost 5 times the original amount, and the lunar landing program eventually involved about 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industries. Apollo suffered a setback when three astronauts were killed after their spacecraft caught fire during a launch simulation. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union’s lunar landing program proceeded tentatively, partly due to internal debate over its necessity and to the untimely death of the chief engineer of the Soviet space program. By landing on the moon, the United States won the Space Race. The Soviets made four failed attempts to launch a lunar landing craft between 1969 and 1972, including a spectacular launch pad explosion in 1969. From beginning to end, the Americans’ attention was captured by the space race, and the developments by the space programs were covered in the national media. This interest was encouraged by the new type of television. Astronauts came to be seen as the ultimate American heroes. Soviets, in turn, were pictured as the bad guys, with their relentless efforts to surpass America and prove the power of communism.With the change of technology eventually came to a change of education, the space race encouraged people to invent new things and to get creative. So, with all of that the schools decided to switch things up between the 50s and now. After World War II, the advances in science and technology increased at an enormous rate. These advances were described in a series of stages: the first, the atomic age, then the age of automation, then the space age, and the computer age. These changes were very fast paced and there was a growing concern that America didn’t have enough scientists and engineers to meet the standard of the public. The National Science Foundation took the lead in addressing the problem of shortages in science and engineering, and the concern that high school science courses were failing to train teachers in science and improved methods of teaching, and that the textbooks being used were outdated, and needed to be changed. Even with the growing concern for science education in the schools, the NSF was reluctant to support high school science. Support would be directed at colleges and universities. In 1953, the first two NSF Summer Institutes were held at the University of Colorado for college mathematics, and at the University of Minnesota for college physics and another class for a group of high school physics teachers. The camps were huge successes and the NSF got a lot of praise for it. Even though they didn’t help grade school, which at that time was a bit of a necessity, they still helped universities and high schools get a better understanding of teaching math and science. Which eventually led to the building of the ISS (Intenational Space Station). The ISS is a large spacecraft that orbits Earth at around 220 miles high and traveling at 17,500 mph, which means a rotation in about 90 minutes. The craft is home to a crew at a time comprised of astronauts and cosmonauts. It also has a very unique laboratory used for experiments, most of them to see if basic vital needs such as plants grow faster in space due to the microgravity, humans living and working in space, and even experiments about microgravity messing up someone’s golf game. We can send people farther out and explore even more than we have, but only if NASA has support, and financially they don’t get a whole lot of that. The construction of the ISS first began in 1998, when Russia launched the Russian Zarya control module. About two weeks later the U.S. launched the Endeavor, which was carrying the US Node. The Endeavor released the Node and the Node then connected to the Zarya. More pieces were added on for the next two years before it was ok for people to live there for long periods of time. On November 2, 2000 the first crew arrived on the ISS. Pieces had been added on since then until the completion of the ISS in 2011. The space station has the volume of a five-bedroom house or two Boeing 747 planes. It’s able to support a crew of six people. On Earth, the ISS would weigh almost 1,000,000 lbs. Measured from the edges of its solar panels, the station covers the area of a football field including the end zones, that’s about 120 yards or 360 feet! It includes lab modules from the United States, Russia, Japan, and Europe. In addition to the labs where astronauts conduct research, the space station has many other parts. The first modules included basic systems needed for the space station to work. They also provided living areas for crew members. Modules connect parts of the station to each other. Stretching out to the sides of the space station are the solar panels. These panels collect energy from the sun to provide power. They are connected to the station with a long truss. A truss is a framework that basically supports a structure from falling. On the truss are radiators that control the temperature in the ISS. Robotic arms are mounted outside the ISS. The arms were used to help build the space station. Those arms also can move astronauts around when they go on spacewalks outside. Other arms operate science experiments. Astronauts can go on spacewalks through airlocks that open up to imminent death if they don’t wear their suits. Docks allow other spacecrafts to connect to the ISS. New crews and visitors arrive through the ports on a regular basis. Astronauts fly to the space station on the Russian Soyuz, Robotic spacecraft use the docking ports to deliver supplies to the astronauts in order to keep them alive. The ISS made it possible for people to have a presence in space. Humans have been living in the Earth’s orbit every day since the first crew arrived on it. It will continue to be a nice reminder to us that we are not the only planet out there, and from up above, there aren’t any borders, there isn’t anyone killing someone because they are wearing the wrong shirt, it is peaceful, and Earth should be that way too. 60 years ago, it was all about getting to the moon, NASA has changed a lot since then. Now if NASA gets on the moon, no big deal, now we are trying to get to Mars. I think that this fast-paced advancement in technology, we owe to the Soviets. They are the ones who started the space race and made us all competitive to get to the moon. If we kept it up, we might have already been to mars by now, maybe even farther. Mars is a whole new ball game, on Mars it is dangerous, barren, and dead. If and when we make it to Mars, then what, what are we supposed to do then. God knows that if you go then it’s a one-way ticket, there isn’t any going back after you take off. Still, NASA has made so much progress thus far, and who knows, maybe I’ll be the one that gets to be on that one-way ticket on the flight to the middle of nowhere.
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