Some people race on tracks. Others race up mountains. In the mid-1900s, two countries were in a race to space. They were the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR). Each wanted to show that it was better at science. America won this race by putting men on the Moon.
Why were the countries racing? The United States and the USSR were very different. The United States was capitalist. The USSR was communist. Each nation felt their government was better.
The competition began in the 1950s. This was after World War II. These countries didn’t fight. But they did make weapons. Rocket science grew. The space race was a chance to practice.
The USSR took the lead. It launched the first satellite in 1957. Its name was Sputnik 1. Then on April 12, 1961, the Soviet Union sent the first person into space — Yuri Gagarin. His flight lasted 108 minutes.
The United States was behind! NASA launched its first satellite in 1958. Then Alan Shepard became its first astronaut in 1961. U.S. President John F. Kennedy challenged his country.
“We choose to go to the Moon in this decade,” Kennedy said in 1962. He was giving a speech in Houston, Texas.
NASA’s Apollo program aimed to land a man on the Moon. Thousands of people worked on it. Each Apollo mission was a step forward. By No. 11, it was time. (Apollo 11’s launch is on the cover.)
On July 20, 1969, American astronauts planted a U.S. flag on the Moon. While they were there, an unmanned USSR craft crash-landed on the Moon.
Kennedy hoped space exploration would keep going. In 1962, he called it “one of the great adventures of all time.”
Updated July 19, 2019, 5:01 P.M. (ET)
By Ryan Cramer
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