BY 1957, both the Soviet Union and the United States had the technology to put a satellite in space - the question of who would be the first to do it was largely one of political willpower. Korolev's team had to deal with a hasty satellite redesign in order to have something ready to launch, while von Braun's group were sidelined - and the replacement naval rocket team faced problems of their own. However, no one could have predicted the seismic effect that the first space launches had on the imagination of the general public. Americans were shaken out of their complacent belief in a technologically backward Soviet Union, while Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev soon realized the propaganda value of his nation's new-found space superiority.
The late 1950s and early 1960s, then, saw the beginnings of a Space Race, as the rival superpowers attempted ever more daring technological feats in the effort to claim new firsts. Most daring of all were the efforts to launch the first manned spacecraft - programmes that would create a new breed of hero for a modern age: the spaceman.
Was this article helpful?