On August 19, 1960, the Soviet spacecraft Korabyl-Sputnik 2
carried two dogs (named Belka (Squirrel) and Strelka
(Little Arrow)) into space and returned them safely to Earth.
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong left the Lunar Module Eagle and
became the first human to set foot on the Moon. He
was soon followed by his fellow astronaut, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin.
This was the result of an intensive United States effort which had actually
been inspired by the achievements in space of the Soviet Union. In 1957, the
Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the world's first artificial satellite.
Later in 1957, Sputnik II was launched carrying
Laika, a dog which became the first Earth creature to
orbit the Earth. In 1961, the first human to pilot a spacecraft,
Yuri Gagarin, was launched by the Soviet Union
aboard Vostok I.
The United States responded to the challenge with rapid advances in its space
program. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard piloted the
first manned American spacecraft. Twenty days after this event, President
John F. Kennedy announced as a national goal the landing of an American
astronaut on the Moon. He wanted to accomplish this by the end of the 1960s.
NASA accepted the challenge, and with the launch of Friendship 7 on
February 20, 1962, John Glenn took the first step towards that goal. Glenn
orbited the Earth three times in this first effort.|
President Kennedy's speeches on the Apollo program
"This Nation should commit itself..."
"We choose to go to the Moon..."
These movies are large, but worth the wait!
Tragedy followed success, though, for both the Soviet Union and the United
States. On January 27, 1967, the cockpit of Apollo 1 caught fire during
a practice countdown. United States astronauts
Edward White II, Virgil Grissom, and Roger Chaffee died in the fire. That
same year, the Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov was
killed when his spacecraft, Soyuz 1, crashed upon re-entry.
Soyuz 11 cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav
Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev were also killed in re-entry in 1971. They
were returning to Earth after successfully manning Salyut 1, the first
Soviet space station.|
Meanwhile, unmanned probes such as
Orbiter, Ranger, and
Surveyor were searching out possible
landing sites for the Apollo lunar modules. In 1968 on December 21, Frank
Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders carried out the first Apollo mission
which orbited the Moon. On Apollo 9 and Apollo 10 missions,
further testing of the lunar landing craft were carried out. This paved the
way for the success of Apollo 11 in landing on the lunar surface.
Apollo 12 was also successful in its mission to the Moon. The mission
of Apollo 13, though, was a near disaster as an explosion damaged the
craft on the way to the Moon. The mission had to be aborted and re-entry was
achieved only with great difficulty. Apollo 14 successfully completed
its mission and returned to the Earth with 43.5 kilograms of lunar rocks and
soil. The lunar module of Apollo 15 landed on the Moon on July 30, 1971
and the astronauts explored the surface riding in the first lunar rover.
Apollo 16 also brought back a large number of lunar rocks and soil
samples. The final and longest Apollo mission, Apollo 17, was launched
on December 7, 1972. During the 12 day, 13 hour, 51 minute mission, the lunar
astronauts set a record for the most time spent outside the lunar module when
they explored the Moon for a total of 22 hours
and 4 minutes.|
The Soviet Union put a total of seven space stations in orbit between 1971
and 1982. In 1973, the United States launched Skylab, also a space
station. This satellite was designed so that astronauts could live and work in
orbit for prolonged periods of time. The space station not only served as a
laboratory and living space for astronauts, but also as a support base for other
spacecraft which had the ability to dock with the station. In 1986,
Union launched the Space Station Mir. During its 15 year lifetime,
it was the largest space
station to orbit the Earth.
In 1981, the United States launched the Space Shuttle Columbia, the
first reusable manned spacecraft. It was piloted by Robert Crippen and
commanded by John Young. In June of 1983, Sally
Ride became the first American woman in space when she rode aboard the
Space Shuttle Challenger. In August of that same year,
Guion Bluford became the first black American
to enter space. During a Challenger mission in 1984,
Kathryn Sullivan became the first American woman to
walk in space while in 1986, the Space Shuttle Columbia carried the
first Hispanic American, Franklin Chang-Diaz,
into orbit. Unfortunately, the United States' space program suffered another
tragedy in 1986. January 28th was the launch date of the twenty-fifth shuttle
mission. Seventy-three seconds after launch, Challenger exploded. All
seven astronauts, including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, were
killed. The Space Shuttle Endeavour carried a
very unique crew into orbit in 1992. The crew not only included
Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to
orbit in space, but it also included the first married couple to orbit
together, Mark Lee and Jan Davis, along with the first Japanese astronaut,
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StarChild Graphics & Music:
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