The 1960’s were full of questions, and one of the biggest questions the world was pondering about was regarding the Space Race: was the USA going to beat their communist enemy, the Soviet Union? The Space Race was a series of events that helped to symbolize and determine in the worlds’ eyes which form of government was better, communism (Soviets) or democracy (United States)? In the beginning of the race, the Soviets had the lead, and it was not looking good for America. Then the United States picked up the pace and spent well over eight billion dollars funding the space studies. This period of time made many scientists and astronauts heroes in the eyes of Americans. The Space Race was a combination of determination, intelligence, space projects, and American pride, all used to reach our exploration goals and surpass the Soviets.
Early on in the race, the USSR was very successful. In 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, which triggered the start of the space race (John F. Kennedy). The United States began to scramble, trying to catch up with the Soviets. However, soon after, the Soviet Union completed another huge success. They sent the first man to orbit Earth (John F. Kennedy). In 1961 the USSR’s Yuri Gagarin became the first human to ever orbit the Earth (John F. Kennedy). The United States was still unsuccessful and beginning to look weak. After that, America got serious. On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy asked Congress for around eight billion dollars to build up the space program over the next five years (John F. Kennedy). The president declared, “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth” (John F. Kennedy).
The American Project Mercury began in 1959 (John F. Kennedy). Overall, it was very successful with more than 2,000,000 personnel combined from many government agencies and the aerospace industry. Twenty-five flights were launched on US soil and six of the twenty-five were carrying man. The multiple experiments proved that humans can function as a pilot engineer experimenter with normal body functions for up to thirty-four hours of weightless flight. Project Mercury taught the US many lessons on how to improve the space program. Some of these lessons included about how we needed more laborious standards, precise and detailed test procedures, and more configurations of control techniques. We also updated qualification programs and improved design guidelines (Dunbars).
One mission from Project Mercury, The Friendship 7 Mission, also surged the United States up to a higher standing in the Space Race. The mission had three objectives: place a piloted spacecraft into orbital flight around Earth, observe human performance in these conditions, and recover the human and spacecraft safely. John H. Glenn, Jr. became the first American to orbit Earth on February 20, 1962. He was in a Project Mercury spacecraft and he orbited Earth a total of...