In the 1950s, the Cold War had made its debut to the U.S. and Russia, stress levels would increase due to feats such as the arms race and the constant threat of nuclear weapons touching ground on the soil of either country, and would be pushed to the limit by the construction of the Berlin Wall, the possibility of a missile coming from Cuba, and the war in Southeast Asia.
Space served as one more topic for the two to try and better their opponent’s last attempt. On October 4, 1957, the Russians launched the first man-made satellite and object to be in Earth’s orbit, Sputnik. When the craft was launched most Americans were shocked because they had not expected Russians to be able to do something as drastic as this. In 1958 America finally got their act together and managed to launch a satellite into orbit. The satellite was called Explorer 1, created by a team of engineers hired by Dwight E. Eisenhower. Eisenhower also created two national space programs that would operate with NASA’s program. The first, which had been led by the Air Force, focused only on the military potential of space. The second, led by the CIA and the Air Force. It would be use satellites to gather information on the Soviets and their military power.
In 1959, the Soviets gained another paparazzi hit with the launch of the first probe to hit the moon. For the U.S. effort to send a man into space NASA engineers designed a smaller, cone shaped capsule. They tested the craft with chimpanzees, and held a final test in 1961. In May, President John F. Kennedy made the famous claim that the U.S. would stick someone on the moon before the 1970s. In February 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth, and by the end of that year, the foundations of NASA’s lunar landing program were in place.
From 1961 to 1964, NASA’s budget was increased almost 5 times the original amount, and the lunar landing program eventually involved about 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industries. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union’s lunar landing program continued aggressively.
By landing on the moon, the United States won the Space Race. The Soviets made four failed attempts to launch a lunar landing craft between 1969 and 1972, including a spectacular launch pad explosion in 1969. From beginning to end, astronauts were seen as the ultimate American heroes. Soviets were pictured as the bad guys, with their efforts to surpass America and prove that communism was far superior, but they failed and so did their image of a perfect government that somehow failed every time it was used.
With the change of technology eventually came to a change of education, the space race encouraged people to invent new things and to get creative. So, with all of that the schools decided to switch things up between the 50s and now.
After World War II, the advances in science and technology increased at an enormous rate. These advances were described in a series of stages: the first, the atomic age, then the age of automation, then the space age, and the computer age. These changes were very fast paced and there was a growing concern that America didn’t have enough scientists and engineers to meet the standard of the public.
The National Science Foundation took the lead in addressing the low employment in science and engineering, and the concern that high school science courses were failing to train teachers in science and math, and that the textbooks being used were outdated, and needed to be changed.
Even with the growing concern for science education in the schools, the NSF was reluctant to support high school science. Support would be directed at colleges and universities. In 1953, the first two NSF Summer Institutes were held at the University of Colorado for college mathematics, and at the University of Minnesota for college physics and another class for a group of high school physics teachers.
The camps were huge successes and the NSF got a lot of praise for it. Even though they didn’t help grade school, which at that time was a bit of a necessity, they still helped universities and high schools get a better understanding of teaching math and science. Which eventually led to the building of the ISS (Intenational Space Station).
The ISS is a large spacecraft that orbits Earth at around 220 miles high and traveling at 17,500 mph, which means a rotation in about 90 minutes. The craft is home to a crew at a time comprised of astronauts and cosmonauts. It also has a very unique laboratory used for experiments, most of them to see if basic vital needs such as plants grow faster in space due to the microgravity, humans living and working in space, and even experiments about microgravity messing up someone’s golf game. We can send people farther out and explore even more than we have, but only if NASA has support, and financially they don’t get a whole lot of that.
The construction of the ISS first began in 1998, when Russia launched the Russian Zarya control module. About two weeks later the U.S. launched the Endeavor, which was carrying the US Node. The Endeavor released the Node and the Node then connected to the Zarya.
More pieces were added on for the next two years before it was ok for people to live there for long periods of time. On November 2, 2000 the first crew arrived on the ISS. Pieces had been added on since then until the completion of the ISS in 2011.
The space station has the volume of two Boeing 747 planes. It’s able to support a crew of six people. Measured from the edges of its solar panels, the station covers the area of a football field including the end zones, that’s about 120 yards. It includes lab modules from the United States, Russia, Japan, and Europe.
In addition to the labs where astronauts conduct research, the space station has many other parts. The first modules included basic systems needed for the space station to work. They also provided living areas for crew members. Modules connect parts of the station to each other.
Stretching out to the sides of the space station are the solar panels. These panels collect energy from the sun to provide power. They are connected to the station with a long truss or a support beam. Robotic arms are mounted outside the ISS. The arms were used to help build the space station. Those arms also can move astronauts around when they go on spacewalks outside. Other arms operate science experiments. Astronauts fly to the space station on the Russian Soyuz, Robotic spacecraft use the docking ports to deliver supplies to the astronauts in order to keep them alive and well for our viewing pleasure.
The ISS made it possible for people to have a presence in space. Humans have been living in the Earth’s orbit every day since the first crew arrived on it. It will continue to be a nice reminder to us that we are not the only planet out there, and from up above, there aren’t any borders, there isn’t anyone killing someone because they are wearing the wrong shirt, it is peaceful, and Earth should be that way too.
60 years ago, it was all about getting to the moon, NASA has changed a lot since then. Now if NASA gets on the moon, no big deal, now we are trying to get to Mars. I think that this fast-paced advancement in technology, we owe to the Soviets. They are the ones who started the space race and made us all competitive to get to the moon. If we kept it up, we might have already been to mars by now, maybe even farther.
Mars is a whole new ball game, on Mars it is dangerous, barren, and dead. If and when we make it to Mars, then what, what are we supposed to do then. God knows that if you go then it’s a one-way ticket, there isn’t any going back after you take off. Still, NASA has made so much progress thus far, and who knows, maybe I’ll be the one that gets to be on that one-way ticket on the flight to the middle of nowhere.