The space race was a competition to acquire dominance in space travel between the US and the Soviet Union (cold war rivals). Its roots may be traced back to the post-World War II nuclear weapon rivalry in the twentieth century. The technological edge shown by spaceflight achievement was seen as necessary for nationwide safety, and it formed part of the era’s ideology and iconography.
Sputnik-1, the world’s first artificial satellite, was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. The Russian spacecraft weighed 184 pounds, significantly more than anything developed by the US at the time (Lee, 2020). The successful launch dispelled concerns that the US military was lagging in the development of new technology in general. It also contributed to the Cold War’s weapons race and tensions. Sputnik’s victory profoundly influenced both the Cold War and the US. Concerns about falling behind drove United States authorities to speed up space and military initiatives. At the same time, the US was building its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to counter what it saw as a rising stockpile of Soviet missiles (Kroenig, 2018). The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 provided a harsh warning to both sides of the risks presented by the weapons they were creating.
Today’s space exploration is a far cry from the space race that existed between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Pekkanen (2019) asserts that the new space competition involves more than two nations. China’s, India’s, and Japan’s fast-growing economies are key actors in this Earth-orbit environment. China has undertaken multiple missions to the moon, the most recent being the Chang’e 4 probe launched in 2019. In its five-year space strategy, China does not include human Moon exploration. Japan and the United States established a partnership that might result in Japanese astronauts flying to the moon. Asian nations interested in sending people to the moon include India, Russia, and China. Gaganyaan, India’s Human Space Flight Program, is currently in development. The first astronauts are anticipated to launch autonomously in 2021 or 2022.
The space race was expensive. According to Kirby (2018), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration spent about a trillion dollars between 1958 and 2018. NASA’s yearly expenditure accounts for 0.5 percent of the government budget. However, Americans spend twice as much money on pizza as they do on space research yearly. Following the launch of Sputnik, President Eisenhower felt compelled to commit to space research to comfort the American people. The 1960s human space missions gave fleeting moments of national togetherness and success. Some of the space program’s apparent advantages seem implausible or outlandish.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) created approximately $64.4 billion in overall monetary activity during the 2019 fiscal year generating approximately $7 billion in federal state, and local taxes across the country and reinforced over 311,999 employment throughout the country. NASA efforts aid every state in the nation in terms of economics. NASA’s Moon to Mars initiatives accounted for around 22% of the agency’s total economic effect. In 2021, their numbers were predicted to more than double. The new technology that may be used in various sectors and society is among the world’s benefits of space exploration (Cerri, 2021). NASA research has resulted in the saving of 444,000 lives, the creation of 14,000 jobs, the generation of $5 billion in income, and the reduction of $6.2 billion in costs. Space exploration has become the domain of the world’s leading nations.
Overall, the victory of Sputnik had a huge influence on the Cold War, as well as on the United States of America. Concerns about falling behind compelled US officials to expedite space and military projects. China has launched several missions to the moon, the most recent was the Chang’e 4 probe in 2019. Japan and the United States formed an alliance that could result in Japanese astronauts flying to the moon. India’s Human Space Flight Program, Gaganyaan, is currently in development. Human Moon exploration is not included in China’s five-year space strategy.
Cerri, M., Hitrec, T., Luppi, M., & Amici, R. (2021). Be cool to be far: exploiting hibernation for space exploration. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 128, 218-232.
Kirby, J. (2018). How NASA Has Lead The Pursuit of Furthering Scientific Knowledge. Science, Technology, and Society.
Kroenig, M. (2018). The Case for the US ICBM Force. Strategic Studies Quarterly, 12(3), 50-69.
Lee, W. C., Kim, K. S., & Kwon, Y. H. (2020). Review of the history of animals that helped human life and safety for aerospace medical research and space exploration. 항공우주의학회지, 30(1), 18-24.
Pekkanen, S. M. (2019). Governing the new space race. American Journal of International Law, 113, 92-97.