Sputnik 1, as shown in this artist’s impression, was launched by the Soviets in 1957
Asked by Leigh Marklow
A competition between bitter Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union and the United States, the Space Race involved the fight for supremacy to put the first craft into space.
Sparking the first real efforts to launch artificial satellites, unmanned probes to the Moon, Venus and Mars as well as human spaceflight in Earth orbit and the famous Apollo lunar landings, the Space Race took a hold of the years between 1955 and 1972.
In 1955, after hearing the announcement that the United States was intending to launch artificial satellites for the International Geophysical Year, the Soviets responded four days later to say that they too would be launching a satellite in the near future. This sparked the start of one of the most famous periods in space exploration.
The Soviets won the first round when they launched Sputnik 1 in 1957. However, later in 1969, the United States landed the first humans on the Moon before the race concluded when both rivals collaborated on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.
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