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"This is Eagle 1 to Mission Control. We are Losing The Space Race"


The first satellite in space
The first satellite in space
In 1915 a man named Goddard put liquid oxygen and gasoline into the base of a cylinder and then lit the liquids on fire creating a quick burst of thrust from the rear of the cylinder. This pushed the cylinder up towards the sky in an important display of rocket science. The rocket hurled forty feet into the air and crashed back down into a nearby cabbage field. This was the first successful liquid fuel rocket launch. Until then, only solid fuels (much less powerful than liquid) had been used.

In Goddard's next experiments he increased the size of the cylinder (or rocket) to put in scientific instruments and attached a parachute to make for a safe fall back to earth.

Sound familiar? Well, that's because nowadays we do the same things to launch rockets and the space shuttle into space.

What happened in between Goddard's experiments and the first launch of a person into space? Well…

During the Second World War, Germany made many advances in rocket science. They built a rocket that could destroy a whole city block. But one person from the German rocket school was thinking about space and how rockets could take people into space. His name was Wernher von Braun. After WWII, he was taken by the U.S. to be their leading rocket scientist. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were in a battle now to see who could get to space first.

In the U.S., von Braun lead the team that made the three Mercury Redstone rockets that launched Alan Sheppard into the U.S.'s first suborbital space flight. But before that flight, his team worked to put a satellite into orbit.

Blast off!
Blast off!
The Soviet Union during this time stunned the world when they successfully launched the world's first satellite into orbit. It was called Sputnik I and was launched on October 4th, 1957. From its orbit, anyone with a radio could pick up its little beep. Sputnik I weighed 184 lbs. The Soviet Union had won the first battle in the space race.

Americans were very upset by the launch of Sputnik I. Not only had they lost the first battle, but they were afraid that Soviet rockets would be stronger than America's. This would mean that the Soviet Union could send nuclear weapons in these strong rockets faster than ever before. Americans panicked. But, President Eisenhower responded by creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration - NASA. NASA would make even better rockets and Americans would feel more safe.

Space Dog!
Space Dog!
On Jan. 31, 1958 the Juno I rocket took the first U.S. satellite, Explorer I, into orbit. At only 31 lbs, Explorer I was much smaller than Sputnik I. But Explorer I carried a Geiger counter to detect the presence of cosmic rays. This lead to the discovery of earth's radiation belts, later named the van Allen Belts after the scientist who made the experiment.

Americans fear was eased for the moment. But between the time that Sputnik I had launched and Juno I had taken Explorer I into orbit, the Soviets had launched Sputnik II which carried the first living creature from the face of the earth into space. The animal was Laika, a female husky. She died aboard the spacecraft when her oxygen ran out about seven days after the launch.

First human in space
First human in space
On April 12,1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. Again the Soviet Union took the lead in the race for space. They had successfully launched the first satellite, the first animal, and the first human into space. And again the U.S. public was shocked and worried.

A month after Vostok I took Gagarin into space, NASA put astronaut Alan Shepard into a brief suborbital flight, and on Feb. 29, 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the planet.

The Americans were still in the race, but not winning it.

The Team


Links to Other Dispatches

Neda - How would you like your lunch? Hot, cold, or radioactive?
Irene - And while we're at it, let's burn down some movie theaters!
Neda - "Pumpkin papers for sale! Hot and fresh!"