The Space Race was a mid-to-late 20th century competition between the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US) for supremacy in space exploration. Between 1957 and 1975, the Cold War rivalry between the two nations focused on attaining firsts in space exploration, which were seen as necessary for national security and symbolic of technological and ideological superiority. The Space Race involved pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, sub-orbital and orbital human spaceflight around the Earth, and piloted voyages to the Moon. It effectively began with the Soviet launch of the Sputnik 1 artificial satellite on 4 October 1957, and concluded with the co-operative Apollo-Soyuz Test Project human spaceflight mission in July 1975.
The Space Race had its origins in the missile-based arms race that occurred just after the end of the World War II, when both the Soviet Union and the United States captured advanced German rocket technology and personnel. The Space Race sparked unprecedented increases in spending on education and pure research, which accelerated scientific advancements and led to beneficial spin-off technologies. An unforeseen effect was that the Space Race contributed to the birth of the environmental movement; the first colour pictures of Earth taken from deep space were used as icons by the movement to imply that the planet was a fragile "blue marble" surrounded by the blackness of space.
World War II
The Space Race can trace its origins to Germany, beginning in the 1930s and continuing during World War II when Nazi Germany researched and built operational ballistic missiles. Starting in the early 1930s, during the last stages of the Weimar Republic, German aerospace engineers experimented with liquid-fuelled rockets, with the goal that one day they would be capable of reaching high altitudes and traversing long distances. The head of the German Army's Ballistics and Munitions Branch, Lieutenant Colonel Karl...