Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Space Race - First Part

"The Space Race - First Part"," This period was to be filled with numerous scientific experiments and studies about Earth.
 As this was the time of great rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union, US President Eisenhower promised that the United States would orbit a satellite in this period themselves.

Both countries had missiles in development, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).
 But as the Soviet warhead was much heavier than the US one, the Soviets developed, from the beginning on, a stronger rocket, which showed very useful later in history for use as a space launcher.

Sputnik 1 was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957.
 Not only that the Soviets had orbited a satellite, it was the mass that shocked the governmental authorities.
 And this stage alone weighed about 7.
 In contrast, the US satellite, named like its launcher Vanguard, had a mass of only 1.
 Tauntingly said, the Americans put every kind of rocket together they could find.

But in the progress of developing the first satellites, the United States slowly recognized their shortfall in rocket technology and allowed Wernher von Braun and his Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) to reinforce a military Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), the Redstone, with two additional stages, so that this launcher, now called Jupiter-C, was able to deliver a small payload into orbit.
 In the meantime, the Soviets had launched a dog onboard Sputnik 2, a satellite with a mass of 508 kilograms.

While the Soviets were able to put large payloads into orbit, their scientific payloads often suffered under the backlog in electronics and the kind of the academic landscape.
 In contrast the Soviets had problems to exchange data and information as the whole space program was highly classified.
 Both thought that they could document the superiority of their respective administrations.
 The Soviets approached their goal with a relatively simple solution.

On the other side of the Earth, the Americans had two concepts under investigation.
 One option was to develop a next evolutionary step of this craft, the reusable like a plane X-20.
 Later the craft should have been fitted onto a Titan rocket in order to fly orbital missions.
 The X-20 was kept alive for a few years as an Air Force program but was then cancelled.

After these initial competitions between the two Superpowers about the firsts, like first satellite, first man in space, first ""space walk"", both states soon targeted a new major goal: the moon.
 Both countries depended with their ambitious programs on large boosters: the Saturn V on the US side and the N-1 on the Soviet side.

But it was a very serious duel.
 And as no one has luck for all times, both had to mourn about first victims.
 The United States lamented about the crew of Apollo 1, Ed White, Roger Chaffee and Virgil ""Gus"" Grissom.
 But this was not the end of the Space Race.
 They switched from the exploration of the moon to a completely different goal: manned space stations.
 The first crew that docked with the station, Soyuz 11, directly achieved a new endurance record of 23 days, the obviously new goal of the Space Race.

As the United States launched their first space station, Skylab, in 1973, the Soviet Union already had Salyut 2 in orbit and gained a lot of experience in long time stays in microgravity and about operating space stations.
 So it was not very surprising that the first crew of Skylab set a new endurance record in 1973.
 In regular intervals, new stations were orbited and each of them incorporated improvements and new features.
 This was the first station that had two docking ports, so it could be replenished by unmanned cargo transports as well as receiving guests on an additional Soyuz ferry.
 The Soviet Union started their Intercosmos program in 1978 with the first flight of a Czech cosmonaut, Vladimir Remek, the Space Shuttle saw the first non-American to fly in 1983, German Ulf Merbold.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, a new era was to become reality.
 The Space Shuttle docked with the Mir space station and Americans stayed for 6 months onboard the station while Russian cosmonauts flew on the Shuttle.

But this was only the end of the first part: A new Space Race already waited on the horizon.

Watch out for the next parts of the Space Race.

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