As much as I hate to give the Nazi's credit for anything good, the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union can trace its origins to Nazi Germany. Like so many times before in history, Military Technology, and the desire to kill our fellow human beings brought about great advances in Science and Technology. Lt. Colonel Karl Emil Becker, the head of the German Army Ballistics and Munitions Branch, gathered a small team of engineers to figure out how to use rockets as long range artillery. Walter Dornberger and Leo Zanssen were part of that team along with a young engineering prodigy by the name of Wernher von Braun, in 1932. Von Braun dreamed about mankind going into outer space with the use of rockets.
General Dornberger was the military head of the army's rocket program, Zanssen became the commandant of the Peenemunde army rocket centre, and Von Braun was the technical director of the ballistic missile program. The team collaboration developed the Aggregate-4(A-4) rocket, which became the first vehicle to reach outer space during a test flight in 1942 and 1943. By 1943 Germany was mass producing the A-4, Vergeltungswaffe 2 "Vengeance Weapon" 2, or V2, a ballistic missile with a 200 mile range carrying a 2,500 pound warhead at 2,500 miles per hour. The supersonic speed meant there was no defense against it. Radar detection provided little to no warning. Germany used the weapons to bombard southern England and parts of Allied-liberated Western Europe from 1944 through 1945.
Operation Paperclip was an American Operation of acquiring scientific personnel, technology, and equipment from the Germans as the country fell into Allied hands. The U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviets competed to capture information, technology, and the personnel responsible for developing it. The U.S. recruited Von Braun and most of his engineering team, along with a large number of complete V2 rockets.
The Soviets main Engineer was Sergei Korolev, originally arrested in 1938 during Joseph Stalin's Great Purge and was imprisoned for six years in Siberia. After the war he became the USSR's chief rocket and spacecraft engineer. His identity was kept a state secret throughout the Cold War. He was publicly identified as "the Chief Designer" during that entire time and only became known after his death in 1966. By 1948 Korolev's team reversed engineered a version of the German A-4, and called it the R-1. By 1949 they had developed their own designs and produced the G4-R10 design, and the German scientists they had captured after the war were repatriated between 1951 – 1953.
In America under Von Braun using V2 Rockets led to the WAC Corporal-V2 combination in 1949 which took the first photographs from outer space and the first two-staged rocket. Von Braun's team also developed the first U.S. medium-range ballistic missile, the Redstone Rocket. The Redstone rocket in a slightly modified version would launch both of America's first satellite and the first piloted Mercury space missions. This was the forerunner of the Jupiter and Saturn rocket families.
The Cold War (1947–1991) developed between two former allies, the United States and the Soviet Union, soon after the end of the Second World War. It involved a continuing state of conflict, military tension, and extreme competition between the Soviet Union and the Western World, particularly the United States. Espionage, propaganda, a nuclear arms race, economic and technological competitions grew out of this pressure, and the Space Race was a primary playing field of this competition. This mostly grew out of the uneasiness that America had lost its monopoly on the Atomic Bomb when the Soviets detonated a nuclear weapon in August 29, 1949. Fear of Communism and being attacked and annihilated by the Soviets pushed the Americans, and fear of American superiority and the spread of Capitalism pushed the Soviets. Both sides were afraid of their former allies from World War II.
The United States had a larger Air Force, so the Soviets developed ICBM's. Since they were developing ICBM's then so did the United States. Each side was escalating their efforts to counter the perceived threat of the other. In 1953 the Soviets, under Korolev, developed the R-7 Semyorka rocket which incorporated staged design, new control systems, and a new fuel, even though some parts of the boosters were notably throwbacks to the German V2. On August 21, 1957, the Soviets tested this new rocket and a month later the first fully operational ICBM was created. It would later be used to launch the first satellite into outer space, and other versions of this design would launch all piloted Soviet Spacecrafts.
The United States ICBM program MX-1593 evolved to become the Atlas-A, with its first launch occurring on June 11, 1957. Later the Atlas-D rocket would serve as the United States first ICBM and be used as the orbital launch vehicle for the Project Mercury and the remote-controlled Agena Target Vehicle used in Project Gemini.
The line drawn in the sand that was the official start of the Space Race was July 29, 1955, when James Hagerty, President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s press secretary, announced that the United States intended to launch small Earth circling satellites between July 1, 1957 and December 31, 1958. Four days later scientist Leonid I. Sedov spoke to international reporters at the Soviet embassy and announced his countries intention to launch a satellite as well in the near future. On August 30, 1955, Korolev managed to get the Soviet Academy of Sciences to create a commission whose purpose was to beat the Americans into Earth orbit. Game ON, the race was on!
Initially, President Eisenhower was worried that a satellite passing above a nation might be construed as violating that nation's sovereign airspace. He was concerned that the Soviet Union would accuse the Americans of an illegal over flight, thereby scoring a propaganda victory at his expense. Eisenhower also feared that he might cause an international incident and be called a "Warmonger" if he were to use military missiles as launchers. Therefore he selected the untried Vanguard rocket, which was a research-only booster. This meant that von Braun's team was not allowed to put a satellite into orbit with their Jupiter-C rocket, because of its intended use as a future military vehicle. On September 20, 1956, Von Braun and his team did launch a Jupiter-C that was capable of putting a satellite into orbit; however the launch was used only as a suborbital test of nose cone reentry technology. Had Von Braun's team been allowed to orbit a satellite in 1956, the Space Race might have been over before it really began.
The Soviets thought Von Braun's launch was a failed Satellite launch and increased their efforts to get a satellite into orbit. Their Object D satellite would dwarf the Americans efforts, but by February 1957, Korolev sought permission for a simple satellite, because things were not going well with the design and manufacturing of the Object D satellite. The new simple satellite would be known as Sputnik, weighing only 185 pounds, but would have two radio transmitters operating on different short wave radio frequencies. The Soviets had two successful launches of their R-7 rockets in August and September, paving the way for the launch of Sputnik.
The Soviets got word the Americans planning to announce a major breakthrough on October 6. They rallied and moved up the launch to Friday, October 4, 1957, when they successfully launched Sputnik 1 and placed a satellite into orbit. The Sputnik 1 continued for 22 days. The first satellite launched into orbit by mankind!
President Eisenhower ordered the civilian rocket and satellite project, Vanguard, to move up its timetable and launch its satellite much sooner than originally planned. December 6, 1957, Project Vanguard launch failure occurred at Cape Canaveral in front of a live broadcast television audience. This public failure got Von Braun’s team the go ahead to use their Jupiter-C rocket as soon as they could. Within four months of Sputnik’s launch, Von Braun’s team launched the Explorer 1 satellite using military rocket renamed Juno 1. Explorer 1 confirmed the existence of an Earth encompassing radiation belt, previously theorized by James Van Allen.
On 12 April 1961, the Soviet Union won the race with the United States to get a human into space, when Yugi Gagarin was launched into orbit around the Earth on Vostk 1. They called Gagarin the first cosmonaut, roughly translated from Russian and Greek as "sailor of the universe". Although he had the ability to take over manual control of his spacecraft in an emergency, it was flown in an automatic mode as a precaution. Vostok 1 orbited the Earth for 108 minutes and made its reentry over the Soviet Union, with Gagarin ejecting from the spacecraft and landing by parachute. Under the qualifying rules for aeronautical records, pilots must both take off and land with their craft, so the Soviets kept the landing procedures secret until 1978, when they finally admitted that Gagarin did not land with his spacecraft. When the flight was publicly announced, it was celebrated around the world as a great triumph, not just for the Soviet Union, but for the world itself, though it once again spurred the Americans on in their efforts to beat the Soviets.
The United States called their space travelers astronauts "star sailors" from the Greek, and it was 3 weeks later, on May 5, 1961, when Alan Shepard became the first astronaut in space. In a space craft named Freedom 7, launched on a suborbital mission Mercury-Redstone 3, it did not achieve orbit, but did exercise manual control over his spacecraft's attitude and retro-rocket firing.
The first Soviet cosmonaut to exercise manual control was Gherman Titov in the Vostok 2 on August 6, 1961.
February 20, 1962, John Glen became the first astronaut to orbit the Earth in a Mercury-Atlas 6 in the Friendship 7 spacecraft and splashed down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. Re-entry was tense because the ships telemetry data said the heat shield was loose.
On May 25, 1961, Kennedy announced his support for the Apollo Program and redefined the ultimate goal of the Space Race in an address to a special joint session of Congress.
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." President John F. Kennedy
On September 20, 1963, in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly, President Kennedy proposed that the United States and the Soviet Union join forces in their efforts to reach the moon. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev initially rejected Kennedy's proposal, however during the next few weeks he concluded that both nations might realize cost benefits and technological gains from a joint venture. Khrushchev was poised to accept Kennedy's proposal at the time of Kennedy's assassination in November 1963.
Khrushchev and Kennedy had developed a measure of rapport during their years as leaders of the world's two superpowers, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. That trust was lacking with Vice President Johnson. When Johnson assumed the Presidency after Kennedy's assassination, Khrushchev dropped the idea of a joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. moon program.
Could the willingness of Kennedy to work with the Soviets and share technology be one of the many reasons the powers that be, (Them), had Mr. Kennedy assassinated? Could the Cold War have been ended and a state of cooperation been entered into by the two superpowers of the world in the early 1960's? Could the conquest of space be a platform to World Peace and cooperation among the countries of the world? One can only ponder the ramifications of our past. When we the people of the world Unite and say "NO MORE" to the powers that be? When will we stop letting them play with our futures like mice in mazes? They tell us what energy we will use, what cars we will buy, and rob from the common working man to get their stooges elected to do their bidding. If the stooges don't play well with their handlers they shoot them, publically, making a statement for those that follow in their footsteps.
They promise clean energy, population control, fuel efficient vehicles, a better education system for our children, and better standard of living, and they keep on doing the same crap over and over again. They think the general population is made up of idiots, and they do not fear the people. Our founding fathers warned us of these times, and they called it Tyranny!
End of Part One . . . Check back for the continuation, The Race for Space focuses on the Moon!