Term Paper: Space Race at the End of World

Pages: 12 (4650 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Topic: Drama - World  ·  Buy This Paper

Space Race

At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union and the United States were locked into a bitter battle of military positioning and propaganda known as the Cold War. Stemming from this, as technology advancements showed the world the military capabilities of space exploration, the two nations became engaged in a "Space Race," as both attempted to conquer the space beyond the Earth. From the first satellite launched into space by the Soviet Union, to the first animals in space, to space probes, lunar landings, and humans in space, the Soviet Union appeared to rule the race. However, in 1969, the United States launched Apollo 11, which allowed the first human being to walk on the moon, essentially ending much of the competition for space. As other nations began to develop their own programs, the two nations joined together to explore space in mutual respect. Thus, while the Space Race developed from a vicious Cold War, the race ended in cooperation between two powerful nations. While the space race certainly advanced technology far beyond what would have occurred without such competition, the race also fostered and developed the technological, cultural, ideological, and military mindsets of both countries forever.

Following World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union began an informal competition known as the "Space Race." This fierce competition involved efforts by each country to explore outer space using satellites, send humans into space, and land individuals on the moon. While the competition was closely aligned with the arms race between the two countries during the Cold War, space technology also became an important part of the technological, cultural, ideological, and military rivalry between the two countries.

To understand the origins of the Space Race, it is important to understand both the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union following World War II, as well as the technological advancements during World War II that made space exploration possible. For many years prior to WWII, German scientist Wernher von Braun worked on liquid rocket propellants in an effort to develop long-range artillery rocket fire, succeeding in 1934, with the development of the a-2 Rocket, powered by ethanol and liquid oxygen (Emme, 41). By 1936, the team moved from Berlin to a small town called Peenemunde in an effort to increase security. By 1942, the German a-4 Rocket was propelled into space, and by 1943, the Germans had developed the a-2 Rocket, capable of a range up to 185 miles (Emme, 45). In doing so, these German scientists unknowingly began the research needed for the Space Race.

Following WWII in 1945, Soviet, British, and American military and scientific leaders sought to obtain both trained personnel and the technological knowledge of the Peenemunde installation (Emme, 47). The United States, able to offer more funding, political asylum, and protection from post-war criminal charges, took many of the most noted German scientists, including Wernher von Braun, and created the project later known as "Operation Paperclip" (Naimark, 27). Over three hundred train loads of V-2 Rockets were transported to the United States, along with 126 of the scientists from Peenemunde. Primarily, the researchers began to use the rocket technology to investigate high altitude compression, cosmic rays, and atmospheric pressure (Time Travel Research Center). These advances contributed much to later technologies used in space exploration.

The Soviet Union also captured several V-2 Rockets as well as staff, and in 1946 set up a group of 250 engineers, led by Groettrup. The work done between 1946 and 1950 eventually led to the SCUD missile, but no designs created were directly produced. The British, under Operation Backfire, launched several captured V-2's in Germany, but the engineers involved had already committed to Operation Paperclip. The documentation of the rocket launches done during Operation Backfire, however, were by far the most technical, tailored, and detailed known (Time Travel Research Center).

While the Space Race clearly had origins in rocket technology, the Cold War was also a primary factor in space exploration and advancement. Following the end of WWII, the United States and the Soviet Union became locked in a fierce battle of espionage, military force, and propaganda. As the Soviet Union attempted to push communism onto the world, the United States sought to push democracy (Gainor, 35). As a result, the two powerhouses consistently sought technology, strategy, and methods of outperforming the other, as well as to discover the other's secrets.

Space exploration clearly offered numerous solutions to these issues for both superpowers. Space exploration and satellites could, scientists and military annalists believed, be used to spy on other countries, gathering photographic and location specific information regarding any technologies, military movements, or weapon storage. Additionally, the leaders of these countries believed that to beat the other to space would promote a concept of superiority, prowess, and military superiority (Gainor, 12). As the development of rocket technology increased, and as that technology advanced, space exploration became a feasible goal.

In 1947, the citizens of the United States had one of their first experiences with space, further fueling the flames for the Space Race. In July of that year, farmers in Roswell, NM discovered a crash site nearly three-fourths of a mile in width, consisting of metal, and other unfamiliar debris. A local sheriff called the military, who declared a few days later that a "flying disk" had crashed. Shortly thereafter, the statement was retracted, and replaced with stories of a downed weather balloon (Weaver, 1). Conspiracy theories began to develop, and while discriminating fact from fiction can be difficult, there is no question the event led the public of the United States to begin to question space, and the exploration of space, as well as to discuss espionage, and the need for information of Soviet activities.

As rocket technology continued to develop, there were several successful launches of recovered V-2 rockets by the United States and the Soviet Union in which animals played an important role. As early as July, 1946, the U.S. launched V-2 rockets with fruit flies, in an effort to determine the effects of radiation exposure at high altitude (Beischer and Fregly, 53).

In June of 1948, Albert, a primate, was launched in a V-2 rocket from White Sands, New Mexico, making it the first mammal to attempt space flight. However, the monkey died of suffocation. In June of 1949, however, Albert II was sent in a V-2 rocket, and survived the flight, but was killed on impact, as were monkey launched in September of the same year, and also in December (Beischer and Fregly, 54).

By 1951, aerobe rockets were used to test responses in monkeys and mice to atmospheric conditions, as well. In September of 1951, a monkey and 11 mice were sent aloft, and recovered alive, equaling the first animals to survive an actual spaceflight. In May of 1952, two monkeys were also recovered alive, equaling the first mammals to survive space (NASA, 18). The Soviet Union launched their first animal into space in January of 1951, when the R-1 IIIA-1 flight carried Tsygan and Dezik, two dogs, into space (NASA, 19).

By 1950, biological experiments were conducted using unmanned balloon flights, again to test compression, altitude responses, and other possible space flight issues. In September of 1950, white mice were sent to a height of 47,000 feet, but died from capsule depressurization. Shortly thereafter, more mice were sent 97,000 feet, and were recovered unharmed (NASA, 19). While these experiments were not successful, they laid the groundwork for later success in the Space Race.

In addition to animal and rocket experimentation that helped speed the Space Race, work in radar technologies also helped to propel both sides of the race forward. In 1945, Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories established radar contact with the moon. The researchers at the time noted the implications of such contact by noting the V-3 missiles were capable of climbing over 70 miles above the earth. This meant, according to the scientists, that rockets of the future would travel much further. Radio signals, able to travel much further, could be used for early detection of such weapons, and to control such weapons. Additionally, they noted, by using a reflector beyond the earth for radio waves meant possible use of the moon as a point-to-point communication reflector (Mofenson, 45).

By 1952, citizens of the U.S. assumed their country had superiority in technology over the Soviet Union, and assumed they were winning the space race. So when the International Council of Scientific Unions chose to establish 1957 as International Geophysical Year, and when the council announced artificial satellites should be launched to map the surface of the Earth, the world assumed the U.S. would launch the first satellite that year. In July of 1955, the White House announced plans to launch in 1957, and chose the Navel Research Laboratory to represent the U.S. (Bulkeley, 45).

However, by the summer of 1957, the TV-2, the second incarnation of the proposed satellite, was still having severe problems. Structural issues, pressurization… [END OF PREVIEW]

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