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The Soviet Union achieved an early lead in the space race by launching the first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 (replica) in 1957
The United States led during the "Moon race" by landing Neil Armstrong (pictured) and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, July 1969.
Astronaut Thomas P. Stafford and cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov shake hands in space, signifying the end of the "space race"

The Space Race was a 20th-century (1955–1972) competition between two Cold War rivals, the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US), for supremacy in spaceflight capability. It had its origins in the missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations that occurred following World War II, enabled by captured German rocket technology and personnel. The technological superiority required for such supremacy was seen as necessary for national security, and symbolic of ideological superiority. The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites, unmanned space probes of the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon. The competition began on August 2, 1955, when the Soviet Union responded to the US announcement four days earlier of intent to launch artificial satellites for the International Geophysical Year, by declaring they would also launch a satellite "in the near future". The Soviet Union beat the US to this, with the October 4, 1957 orbiting of Sputnik 1, and later beat the US to the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961. The Space Race peaked with the July 20, 1969 US landing of the first humans on the Moon with Apollo 11, and concluded in a period of détente with the April 1972 agreement on a co-operative Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, resulting in the July 1975 rendezvous in Earth orbit of a US astronaut crew with a Soviet cosmonaut crew.

The Space Race has left a legacy of Earth communications and weather satellites, and continuing human space presence on the International Space Station. It has also sparked increases in spending on education and research and development, which led to beneficial spin-off technologies.


Space Race sections
Intro  Early rocket development  The race to space begins  First Human in space  First American in space  Kennedy directs the race toward the Moon  Completion of Vostok and Mercury programs  Kennedy proposes a joint US-USSR program  Gemini and Voskhod  Soviet manned Moon programs  Outer space treaty  Disaster strikes both sides  Onward to the Moon  Apollo 11  The race winds down  Legacy  See also  Notes  References  External links  

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