The Space Race
During the socalled Cold War, the USA and the Soviet Union were challenging each other on both political and military power.
Manned space flight became an important arena in which both parties were competing for technological superiority and international prestige. Space technology was of strategic military importance and was considered to be a vehicle to establish international leadership.
The Soviet Union was the first to put a small satellite, named Sputnik 1, into an orbit around Earth and effectively started the space race on 4 October 1957. This event embarrassed the western world: a Russian made object was orbiting the world, cruising every country between -70° and +70° lattitude and couldn't be touched by the most powerful nation of the western world. This first manmade satellite was launched by a powerful, newly developed R-7 booster, which turned out to be a very reliable machine. It has been improved over the years and is still in use today. The Soviet Union had given herself a headstart with this launcher, other impressive achievements were about to follow.
The Firsts of the Soviet Union:
Yuri Gagarin was the first Soviet citizen and first human who made a spaceflight. When he was orbiting Earth in his 4.7 metric Tons heavy Vostok spacecraft in April 1961, the USA was barely capable of bringing a man into space. An American astronaut could be brought at a high altitude, at the edge of space, but an orbital flight was not within reach. To bring the first Americans into space within a small carefully designed 1.2 metric Tons heavy conical shaped spacecraft, a booster named Redstone was selected. This single stage rocket, based on the design of the German V-2 ballistic missile, running on alcohol and liqiud oxygen, was the only reliable booster which was available at that time. It was however not powerful enough to give America's small single manned spacecraft, which had about one third the weight of its Russian pendant, the necessary orbital velocity of about 8 km/sec. Putting a small single manned spacecraft into an 150 km high ballistic trajectory was America's best shot in 1961. America seemed to be years behind the Soviets.
- First satellite in orbit
- First man in orbit
- First woman in orbit
- First spacewalk
The big question was: Would the USA be able to catch up ?
I am your host
My name is Sander Panhuyzen and I am working as an ICT consultant helping customers in managing quality control by applying structured testing methods.
Being born in 1956, I can still recall the thrilling impressions of this new adventure: manned spaceflight, man trying to leave Earth in wingless planes of fire and thunder. The American efforts were most visible, unlike the Russian ones. For military strategic and propaganda reasons, the Soviet Union didn't inform the public about the progress on Russian spaceflight in the same extend as the Americans did. And for an European like me, living in a climate of rivalry between East and West, it was more obvious to relate to American astronauts than to Russian kosmonauts. It sadly didn't do justice to the Russian achievements.
For the moment this site will mainly emphasize on the American efforts to bring a man into space, it will cover the period from 1958 to 1980. It is initially meant to illustrate the technology involved and will therefore probably appeal to space modelers mostly. But I also would like to touch on the historical aspects as well. I hope you will enjoy the illustrations.
With this site, I also hope to convey some of the excitement and adventure as could be experienced during the nineteen fifties and sixties when humanity was making its first steps into space.
This site consists of two parts which are recognizable by the color of their pages.
The blue pages are containing the introduction, the considerations and the discussions about the technology concerning launch vehicles and spacecrafts.
The green pages are focussed on the facilities for development, construction, testing, assembly and launch of launch vehicles and spacecrafts. Furthermore, on these green pages facilities for mission preparation, mission control and training are addressed.