In 1958, the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (nasa) selected seven men to become astronauts

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The Space Race grew out of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the most powerful nations after World War II. For a half-century, the two superpowers competed to be the best in the field of space exploration.
The race began because both countries wanted to be able to fire weapons across the ocean, put satellites into space to spy on each other, and to show scientific excellence by putting a man on the moon.



In 1957, the Russians fired the first satellite into space. Sputnik was a 60cm metal sphere that went into orbit some 560 miles up, and at a speed of 18,000 mph it was completing one circuit every hour and 36 minutes. It weighed 184 pounds and carried a radio transmitter.


In 1958, the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected seven men to become astronauts.


On April 12, 1961, the Soviets successfully launched Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin into orbit. He circled Earth in 108 minutes and landed safely.


On May 5, 1961, the U.S. sent astronaut Alan Shepard into space. He made a 15-minute flight. In July 1961, Gus Grissom became the second US astronaut to go into space.


In August 1961, a second Soviet space flight lasted for 25 hours, circled the globe 16 times, and landed safely. The Russians were ahead of the USA.


On February 20 1962, astronaut John Glenn was launched into space. He orbits the Earth but his heat shield failed. Mission control decided not to tell him about the fault. Despite the heat Glenn survived and made it back to Earth. He was given a hero’s welcome in Washington.


Between 1963 and 1965, the Soviets launch the first woman and the first three-man crew, and do the first space walk.


On January 27, 1967, the crew of Apollo 1 — Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White II, and Roger Chaffee — are killed in a fire on the launchpad.


On April 23 1967, the Soviets experience the death of a cosmonaut when his spacecraft's re-entry parachute fails.

© 2002

NASA schedules Apollo 11 as the first manned mission to the moon. In January 1969, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins are named as the crew for the historic flight. The astronauts spend months undergoing training which includes simulated moonwalking. They also have to go into quarantine for three weeks before the launch.

On Wednesday, July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 stands on the launchpad, ready for lift off.

At 9.32 the rocket blasts off into space.

On July 20 1969, Aldrin and Armstrong climb into the tiny Eagle to make the journey to the Moon. As they land Armstrong reports "The Eagle has landed!"

Armstrong and Aldrin put on their bulky moon suits and prepare to take the first steps on the moon. 600 million people world-wide watch as Armstrong touches the moon's surface and says, "That's one small step for man . . . one giant leap for mankind."

On July 24, the capsule splashes down in the Pacific Ocean. The race to the moon is over. An aircraft carrier plucks Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins from the ocean. President Nixon is onboard. He says, "This is the greatest week in the history of the world since creation. As a result of what you have done, the world has never been closer together."

After Apollo 11, five more Apollo missions land on the moon. The space race is over. America won. Even so, space exploration has barely begun.


  1. How was the Space Race linked to the Cold War?

  2. What was the name of the first satellite in space?

  3. What does NASA stand for?

  4. Who was the first cosmonaut in space?

  5. Who was the first astronaut in space?

  6. On what date did Apollo 11 launch?

  7. What was the name of the craft that took the astronauts to the Moon.

  8. What famous phrases were coined during the mission?

© 2002

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