History

The race to the moon

The race to the moon

The year 1955 was crucial for spaceflight. Proclaimed by the international scientific community as an international geophysical year, both the Soviet Union and the United States announced their willingness to launch artificial satellites.

The Soviet Union planned to use its large intercontinental ballistic missiles as space rockets; the US, having no missiles of the power of the Russians, prepared the Vanguard Project. The idea was to use an existing liquid fuel rocket, the Viking, as the first section and, as a second and third, small solid-fuel rockets.

But there was too much hurry: the Vanguard Project was a disaster, a series of frustrated launches with vehicles that were sometimes destroyed without even rising from the launching ramp. The failure of the Vanguard was exacerbated by the Soviet successes: on October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1, an artificial satellite weighing 184 pounds that circled around Earth every 95 minutes, was put into orbit. The rocket used by the Soviets had been a timely re-adapted ballistic missile.

A month later, the Russians launched Sputnik 2, a satellite with a passenger on board, a dog named Laika. The United States. therefore, they were forced to act quickly. Abandoned the disastrous Project

Vanguard, he thought of another rocket. Under the guidance of Werner von Braun, a team of engineers built the Jupiter, an expanded version of the Redstone rocket, which provided for the use of a second section consisting of solid fuel rockets.

On January 31, 1958, exactly 84 days after von Braun's project was approved, the first Jupiter orbited Explorer 1, the first American artificial satellite. Enthusiastic about the success, American politicians realized that it was necessary to create a civil space entity that would be responsible for all space activities of a peaceful nature, leaving exclusively military companies to the Army, Navy and Aviation.

Born on October 1, 1958, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) which replaced the existing NACA (National Advisory Committee by Aeronautics). In the following years, thanks to NASA, the early Russian space rocket leadership was mitigated.

In April 1961, the Soviets used a Vostok rocket to orbit the first man, Juri Gagarin. American space technology, in relation to rockets, was more diversified: there were several families of vehicles. The von Braun Jupiter rocket was reworked and became the Juno rocket, a four-section vehicle capable of generating 150,000 pounds of power.

Two other important American rocket families were those of the Atlas and the Titan. Thanks to an Atlas D in 1962, astronaut John Glenn became the first American in orbit.

Since 1957 von Braun dreamed of a rocket capable of developing more than a million pounds of power. And since 1959 he worked on the Saturn project. When the first Saturn rocket was ready, everyone cheered the prodigy and the race to the Moon turned in favor of the Americans.

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