HOT TOPIC: Space Race
Volume 1, Issue 6 - October 10, 2004

"Half a century ago the post WWII world was locked in a momentous struggle between the communist block of eastern Europe and the democracies of western Europe. Having dismantled and divided the German state, the Soviet and American super powers were in a stand-off both ideologically and militarily. With the onset of the atomic age, scientists were pushing the limits on conventional thinking about military arms. The idea of being able to achieve military superiority in space above the earth inspired both awe and fear on both sides of this stand-off. So when the Soviets launched an unmanned satellite in 1957, notice was served to the west that they were behind in military and space technology.

The 1960s were an incredible time, kicked off by John Kennedy’s pronouncement that we would dedicate ourselves to being first to the moon and then fueled by a series of images that sparked nationalistic pride unlike anything we had seen since the second world war: John Glenn’s orbit of the earth n Friendship 7, Edward White’s space walk on Gemini IV, the docking of two Gemini space ships above the earth, the tragic fire on Apollo I. the orbiting of the moon by Apollo 8, and of course, the moon landing of Apollo 11 at the end of the decade. For the tumultuous turmoil of the 1960’s, these are the events which united us as Americans, indeed as members of the entire global community. In the end, it wasn’t so much about winning the race as it was about crafting bonds of cooperation and friendship across the cold war borders. Today, long since the fall of the Berlin wall, this spirit of cooperation continues and compels us to look forward to new adventures in space.

The resources gathered for this week’s newsletter cover the span of this pace race, from the launch of Sputnik through our moonwalking milestone. There is such a rich record of these events, in print, photograph and multimedia format, and being able to archive them all online creates a treasure that all our children should experience as part of their education. I know you will find these recommended sites worth visiting and revisiting as you work with students in the sciences and the social studies. And for those of you who can recall these events from memory as I do, it’s a wonderfully nostalgic trip back in time. Enjoy! ….."


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©2005 Walter McKenzie

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