On Oct. 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 successfully launched and entered Earth's orbit. Thus, began the space age. The successful launch of Sputnik 1 gave the soviets the title of putting the first ever man made object into space. Many Americans feared the Soviets’ new rocket and satellite technology, and the harm that it could do. The U.S. was way behind the soviets. They would try and catch up with the Soviets, thus the beginning of the “space race.”
After the launch of Sputnik 1, the United States thought it was their turn and successfully launched Explorer 1. This successful launch helped even the field and balance out the power. The satellite marked a moment when the United States got its confidence back after a series of unsuccessful launches and the Soviet Union's successful launch of Sputnik. The United States was back in the race.
The Russians took the lead when they launched a small craft carrying cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into space. During his time in space he also became the first man to orbit the planet. After his historic feat was announced, Gagarin became an instant worldwide celebrity. With the success of putting the first man into space, came a huge blow the to United States. They were now behind again, would they ever catch up?
Man on the Moon!
"On July 20, 1969, American astronauts Neil Armstrong (1930-2012) and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (1930-) became the first humans ever to land on the moon. About six-and-a-half hours later, Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon. As he set took his first step, Armstrong famously said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” By landing on the moon, the United States effectively “won” the space race that had begun with Sputnik’s launch in 1957. For their part, the Soviets made four failed attempts to launch a lunar landing craft between 1969 and 1972, including a spectacular launch-pad explosion in July 1969. From beginning to end, the American public’s attention was captivated by the space race, and the various developments by the Soviet and U.S. space programs were heavily covered in the national media. This frenzy of interest was further encouraged by the new medium of television. Astronauts came to be seen as the ultimate American heroes."
This information is directly copied from http://www.history.com/topics/spacer-race
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