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The Space Race: A Surrogate Superpower War

The Space Race: A Surrogate Superpower War


Indian Defence Review

T he zeal the US and the USSR had to outperform one another, proved quite beneficial to the progress of science. The work culture of the two superpowers was poles apart yet each one was trying to be better than the other in order to become the best in the world. While the USSR had a highly centralised setup that had an impact on the source of investments in their space programme, the US got private players to invest in their space programme. NASA, the premiere space research agency, was also started in 1958 during the Space Race to counter the USSR’s early successes in outer space.

Post World War II, the Space Race between the United States (US) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was a tipping point in history. This superpower race intensified Cold War rivalry because for the first time, mankind was looking to compete in the regime of space. Dominance over space and the race to outdo one another became a matter of pride for both, the US and the USSR.

The competition to conquer space was so intense that a new benchmark was set by one of the two superpowers almost every year throughout 1950s and 1960s. There were many “firsts” during the Space Race. The first intercontinental ballistic missile in 1957, the first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1) in 1957, the first dog in orbit (aboard Sputnik 2) in 1957, the first solar-powered satellite and the first communication satellite.

The Space Race did not just impact space research it left a wider impact in the field of technology. The technological superiority required for the dominance of space was deemed a necessity for national security, and it was symbolic of ideological superiority. The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites. It prompted competitive countries to send unmanned space probes to the Moon, Venus and Mars. It also made human spaceflight possible in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.

The Outer Space Treaty represents the basic legal framework of international space law…

The zeal the US and the USSR had to outperform one another, proved quite beneficial to the progress of science. The work culture of the two superpowers was poles apart yet each one was trying to be better than the other in order to become the best in the world. While the USSR had a highly centralised setup that had an impact on the source of investments in their space programme, the US got private players to invest in their space programme. NASA, the premiere space research agency, was also started in 1958 during the Space Race to counter the USSR’s early successes in outer space.

The Space Race started with the USSR launching Sputnik 1 in 1957, which created a worldwide furor. Governments and masses were excited to see mankind taking another leap towards progress. When the human race ventured into space, it was a ‘paradigm shift’. Neil Armstrong landing on Moon is still regarded as one of the breakpoints in history and his words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for the mankind,” are now one of the most quoted phrases in literature. In a speech to the Congress in May 1961, President John F Kennedy presented his views on the Space Race when he said, “These are extraordinary times and we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions has imposed upon this nation the role of a leader in freedom’s cause.” “If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks, should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take… Now it is time to take longer strides – time for a great new American enterprise – time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth,” he had added.

The space programmes of both the superpowers were not just for civilian purposes it was as much about the military-space programme. Through this, the idea was to fight the battle with the rival by displaying power without actually having to fight an actual war. At that point, the United Nations had to step in to ensure that outer space did not become a battleground for the superpowers. That is when the Outer Space Treaty came into being. The Outer Space Treaty represents the basic legal framework of international space law. Formally known as the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, the Treaty bars states party to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body or otherwise stationing them in outer space.

Being a visionary, Sarabhai wanted India to become one of the players in outer space in the years to come…

It exclusively limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes and expressly prohibits their use for testing weapons of any kind, conducting military maneuvers or establishing military bases, installations and fortifications. The Soviets were reluctant to sign this Treaty because, in their opinion, it would restrict their dominance over the US in the Space Race. They later signed the Treaty in 1967 when it was opened for signatures. To date, more than one hundred nations have become signatories to this Treaty.

The Space Race did not have an end date and in many ways, the race still continues. But the “space rivalry” between the US and the USSR ended in 1975, when the first multi-national human-crewed mission went into space under the Apollo-Soyuz joint-test mission. In that mission, three US astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts became part of the first joint US-Soviet space flight.

The Space Race left a legacy in the field of space research worldwide. As the pioneers of space missions, both the US and the USSR helped their allies build their space missions through the training of scientists and engineers, Transfer of Technology and by allowing other researchers to visit their space laboratories. That way, both superpowers could learn and improve their knowledge and skills related to space research.

The Indian space mission was in its very nascent stage when the Space Race was at its peak. The Indian space programme owes its development and expansion to the assistance of both the US and the USSR because Indian space scientists and engineers were sent to train in both these countries. As a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, India maintained a delicate balance between keeping good relations with both the superpowers, especially in the regime of space cooperation. As a result, the Indian Space Research Organisation went on to become one of the best space research institutions in the world. In conclusion, the Space Race is one of the most iconic events in the history of mankind. It is quite difficult to assess its full impact in the area of space research and technology. One thing is for sure though – if there had been no Space Race, then surely, the world of space research and space missions would be quite different from what it is today.

The seeds of the Indian Space Programme were sown at Thumba, which during the 1960s, became an international launch station…

The Space Race: 1957-1975

The Space Race with the USSR, which the US took up in 1957, was entirely the result of international politics, as the US endeavoured to contain the perceived damage to its self-perception as the world’s leading scientific and industrial power and it responded to what it saw as a military as well as a political challenge posed by Moscow (Sheehan 2007).

The Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union became an important part of the cultural, technological and ideological rivalry during the Cold War. Space technology became a particularly important arena in this conflict, because of both its potential military applications and the morale-boosting social benefits. After World War II, the US and the Soviet leadership began to identify each other as primary threat and competitor. Several crises in Europe and Asia intensified the superpower rivalry and hardened the perception that the superpowers’ goals were incompatible. One specific goal incompatibility involved the exploration, monitoring and control of space. The genesis of the space race between the US and the Soviet Union can be traced to this period of intense Cold War competition and rivalry (McDougall 1985).

Throughout the Space Race, the Cold War was extended into the heavens and even threatened to annihilate earthly life in a nuclear devastation. In 1957, the USSR successfully launched its first ever satellite, the Sputnik. The US soon responded, as the ability to place objects in orbit encouraged serious space research in the US. Competition over space officially began with the launch of Sputnik I, but competition for taking position in Space had begun even earlier than that. As reflected in RAND reports, as early as 1946, US strategists identified the use of satellites as a vital solution to one of the most pressing issues the US faced after World War II – the gathering of reliable intelligence of Soviet activity and capabilities (McDougall 1985).

The successful launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union sent a feeling of inferiority among US people as well as policymakers. Not since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour had Americans felt so vulnerable to a foreign power (McDougall 1985:22). The Sputnik launch triggered an outburst of American self-criticism and even self-doubt.

After the news of launch, President Eisenhower attempted to calm American anxieties by arguing that the US satellite programme had “never been conducted as a race with other nations”. He also said that American people were overreacting, but the hitherto prevailing perception that the Soviet Union was a clearly backward in comparison to the US made its space achievement seem all the more surprising and shocking (Sheehan 2007: 27).

Expressing the technological and political implications of Sputnik launch, Brooks had stated, “…Not since the explosion of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima had a technological event had such an immediate and far-reaching political fall-out” (Brooks 1983: 6). Gene Kranz in his book has also articulated the Sputnik experience as he has stated that the unexpected achievement of Soviet science gave Americans, “both an inferiority complex and a heightened sense of vulnerability in what was then the most intense phase of the Cold War” (Kranz 2001: 15).

By the end of the 1960s, both countries regularly deployed satellites. Spy satellites were used by militaries to take accurate pictures of rival military installations. Both the US and the Soviet Union began to develop anti-satellite weapons as well to acquire the capability to destroy each other’s satellites. Arms control talks between the superpowers began during the period of detente which resulted in the signing of the ABM treaty in 1972. At the height of the Cold War, which coincided with the high point of the Space Race, there were rumors that control of outer space was being sought after so that the nation which took control of other planets, would use them for the growth of nuclear weaponry, such as being able to develop and test the weapons in absolute secrecy, as well as using other planets as a convenient staging and launching area for nuclear weapons (Raver 2006). Thus, the Space Race became a means to win the Cold War.

The action-reaction of both the superpowers resulted in the deployment of ICBMs and spy satellites which had a larger strategic significance over world politics. In the subsequent period, the purpose of Space Race extended beyond the Cold War, although victory in the Cold War was always one of its largest purposes. During this period of an intense Space Race, Soviet challenges in outer space emerged as threats for the US.

Race For Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs)

In 1953, the USSR initiated, under the direction of the Sergey Korolyov, a programme to develop an ICBM. Korolyov had constructed the R-1 7, a copy of the V-28 based on some captured materials, but later developed his own distinct design. Subsequently, the R-79 was successfully tested in August 1957 becoming the world’s first ICBM. On October 04, 1957, it helped place in space, the first artificial satellite Sputnik. The US, on the other hand, had initiated ICBM research way back in 1946 with the MX-77410. However, its funding was cancelled and only three partially successful launches in 1948, of an intermediate rocket, were ever conducted. In 1951, the US began a new ICBM programme called the MX-774 and Atlas11. The first successful ICBM developed by the US, the Atlas A was launched on December 17, 1957, four months after the Soviet R-7 flight.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a dangerous chapter in the consequences of the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union which threatened to take the world to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. The Space Race was continuing along with the arms race. On October 14, 1962, an American U2 spy-plane took pictures of a nuclear missile base being built in Cuba. Kennedy’s advisers told him he had ten days before Cuba could fire the missiles at targets in America. The new Cold War rockets came perilously close to being used in the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 (Jones & Benson 2002). In October 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, lacking a capable long-range missile force, put medium-range missiles in Communist Cuba, only 90 miles from Florida.

The Indian Space Programme

The Indian Space Programme had not even begun when the launch of Sputnik 1 made headlines throughout the world. By the late 1950s, India was starting to grow and mature as a stable democracy. The country under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru was in a nascent stage of sowing seeds for a modern democracy as the country wanted to develop its scientific and industrial outlook. Around this time, Dr Vikram Sarabhai, founder of the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad, started looking for volunteers who were basically engineers to set up a rocket launch pad in South Kerala. Being a visionary, Sarabhai wanted India to become one of the players in outer space in the years to come. For that to happen, India needed to have its own space programme, which was still a distant dream.

As one of the pioneers of Space Race, the US had already made strides in this area by establishing its premiere space agency NASA in 1958. Vikram Sarabhai wanted to form a core group of young engineers who could be sent to the US to be trained at NASA before they come back to India to work at the rocket launch pad station at Thumba in South Kerala. In his book “ISRO: A PERSONAL HISTORY”, Dr R Arvamudan, one of pioneers of the Indian Space Programme, wrote, “The first batch of engineers was sent to NASA in December 1962. Their project was to build a telemetry ground station mounted inside a trailer which after testing and validation was to be shipped to Thumba for installation. This was to be on long term loan to Thumba but would remain the property of NASA.”

The early task of these engineers who later became great scientists was to get trained in launching and tracking ‘Sounding Rockets’. The training offered to these engineers from India by NASA was what was normally given to an operator or technician as they were not given exposure to the technology that went into building large rockets and satellites. The early part of India’s space programme was backed by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and therefore, some of the engineers working for Indian space programme were still on the payrolls of the DAE, while other engineers were recruited directly from the Physical Research Laboratory.

The impact of the Space Race on the Indian Space Programme could be judged by the fact that the vision for a third-world country like India, which was facing problems of development on multiple fronts, became interested in investing in the area of space, was only because of the fact that superpowers like the US and the USSR were actively involved in space research and space race. This is why groups of engineers were sent to NASA to be trained and get some knowledge of radar and telemetry tracking.

The reason for sending the engineers to US instead of USSR, (which at that time was ahead of US in the Space Race) was two-fold. Firstly, the Soviet space programme was very ‘secretive’ in nature and they feared that any sharing of information with anyone could enable the US to get ahead in the race. They were already reports of espionage and counter-espionage involving both the CIA and KGB vis-à-vis space technology. The second reason was language – Indian engineers being very comfortable in using English had no problem in getting trained in the US whereas to be trained in the USSR, one had to know Russian.

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The seeds of the Indian Space Programme were sown at Thumba, which during the 1960s, became an international launch station. The Thumba space station is officially known as TERLS or the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station. It was developed as a facility to scientists from all over the world who were interested in studying the equatorial electro jet. In this endeavour, India was encouraged and supported by many Western countries such as the US, the UK and West Germany. India was provided essential equipment such as telemetry receivers, tracking systems and computers. Some of them came on loan and some were gifted (Arvamudan, 2017).

One equipment that was provided to India was the Doppler Velocity and Positioning System (DOVAP), which was a 40-foot long trailer housing a ground station built by NASA. This was transferred to India under a collaborative agreement with NASA. With USSR, India had its first significant collaboration later in 1970 under which, India had agreed to launch M-100 rockets from Thumba every week in synchronisation with Russian sites so that a simultaneous set of data on meteorological forecasts could be obtained (Arvamudan, 2017). Between 1970 and 1993, India launched over a thousand M-100 rockets. The Soviet Union has been a major contributor to India’s space effort. Foremost in this effort was Soviet technical assistance in building and in actually launching India’s satellites, Aryabhata and Bhaskara. On April 19, 1975, the Soviet Union launched India’s first satellite, the Aryabhata. Designed purely for scientific experiments, the satellite was built by India, but the Soviets provided technical assistance and components such as solar cells, batteries, thermal paints and tape recorders.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Abbey, George and Neal Lane (2005), United States Space Policy Challenges and Opportunities, Cambridge: American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

2. Adkins, Larry D (2005), “Space Superiority: Does the US Really Have It?”, High Frontier Journal, 1 (Winter 2005): 13-16.

3. Altmann, J (1986), “Offensive Capabilities of Space-Based Lasers”, Security Dialogue 17(2): 151-158

4. Baines, P (2004), “Non-Offensive Defences: Space Protection Without Space-Based Weapons”, Astropolitics, 2 (2): 149 -174

5. Belote, HD (2000), “The Weaponization of Space: It Doesn’t Happen in a Vacuum”, Aerospace Power Journal, 46-52

6. Bell, T D (1999), Weaponization of Space: Understanding Strategic and Technological Inevitabilities, Alabama: Air War College Maxwell Air Force Base

7. Collins, Martin J (1999), Space Race: The US-USSR Competition to Reach the Moon Space History Division, National Air and Space Museum.

8. Deblois, BM et al. (2004), “Space weapons: Crossing the US Rubicon”, International Security, 29(2): 50-84

9. Dockrill, Saki (1996), “Eisenhower’s New Look National Security Policy, 1953-61”, London: Macmillan Press.

10. Jones, Thomas & Michael Benson (2002), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to NASA, (Online Web)

11. Kranz, Gene (2001), “Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond”, New York: Berkley Books

12. McDougall, WA (1985), “Sputnik, The Space Race and the Cold War”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 41 (5): 22.

13. Sheehan, Michael (2007), The International Politics of Space, New York: Routledge


Space Policy and History Forum

Space feats have long served as instruments of prestige and soft power. Even before Sputnik launched the Space Race in 1957, theorists and politicians alike recognized that space exploration would “inflame the imagination.” A surrogate for war, space feats soon became the quintessential form of soft power in the Cold War competition for geopolitical alignment. What does spaceflight symbolize today? Does soft power factor into US, Russian, Chinese space policy in similar or divergent ways? How has the role of soft power in national space programs evolved over time?

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) are pleased to announce the next Space Policy and History Forum featuring a panel discussion comparing the role of soft power in the US, Russian, and Chinese space programs. Join us for an in-depth analysis of the history and future of soft power in space policy.

Dr. Bill Barry, chief historian, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony, curator of the Apollo collection at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Lincoln Hines, PhD candidate, international relations and comparative politics, Cornell University

Space is limited to 50 attendees, so please RSVP here.

Date and Time
Thursday, October 31, 4:00 to 5:30 pm. There will be a post-lecture happy hour open to all Forum attendees.

Location
The Forum will be held at the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI) at 1701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington, DC.

*If you are a non-U.S. citizen, we request that you RSVP no later than 8 days before the Forum, email Teasel Muir-Harmony ([email protected]) with the following information: full name (as it appears on your passport) passport number and country of origin. Please bring your passport to the event.

About the Space Policy and History Forum
The Space Policy and History Forum is organized by the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, with support from the Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), a federally funded research and development center created by Congress to support the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and other executive agencies in the federal government.


The Soviet Union starts to drop behind?

While the USSR continued to rack up more space firsts—first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova, 1963) first multiple space crew (Voskhod 1, 1964) first spacewalk (Alexey Leonov, 1965)—this was at the expense of any significant planning and resourcing of a Moon mission.

In 1964, the Soviet government gave the authorisation—undeclared to the world—to proceed with the Moon mission.

But this was now three years after the US had started serious planning of its Apollo project, the programme which would get a man on the Moon.

The US completed its Mercury programme, flying a total of six astronauts into space to test the survivability of the human frame in space. This was followed by Project Gemini, a space programme which flew ten crews of two into space between 1965 and 1966.

These missions paved the way for the Apollo programme.


The Space Race! How Consumers powered the American Space Industry

The American space program was a key part of the Cold War, especially after the Soviet Union propelled a human into space before the U.S. did. The U.S. government initially hugely supported the industry, and here Jeneane Piseno explains the role of the American consumer in supporting the space industry - and how the industry has evolved since the end of the Cold War.

The joint U.S.-Soviet crew of the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the first two-nation cooperative space mission.

Cold War Consumerism

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union propelled humanity into outer space via Sputnik, launching a national purpose for the United States aimed at preeminence on several fronts including military, technology, ideology, and culture.[i] Space, the new battleground in the Cold War, mandated the necessity of a national organization to deliver international superiority. Thus, on July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed into law the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act, establishing a government-supported civilian agency responsible for peaceful enterprises in outer space.

NASA’s mission to thrust Americans to the forefront of global leadership also ignited one of its most important assets, the consumer market. The space-age consumer provided momentum to policies produced by the convergence of the Cold War and technological developments in both government and corporate sectors. The objective to form a national identity through legislation, innovation, and mass advertising transported American leadership to outer space from the 1950s through the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Free Market Culture

Thus, Cold War consumerism impacted the onset of the “space race” by shaping modern cultural attitudes towards spending based on political superiority. Post World War Two spending focused on the perception of power presented to the public by capitalizing on selling a free market ideology.[ii] For example, at the height of the Cold War, consumer advertisers unleashed a barrage of technological prospects aimed at securing freedom from the evils of Communism.

Products that materialized in the 1950s and 1960s captured the emotions of “ordinary American families” as a result of post-World War Two geopolitical and economic technological development.[iii] Rocket design, nuclear fusion production, and fear of Communism reinforced policy and legislation aimed at the “space race”, which in turn influenced the economy through the production of consumer goods. Influence in this sphere resulted in accelerated research in science, technology, and defense intended to provide Americans with the biggest and best of everything, including the vehicle that propelled them to the Moon. The Cold War marketed the idea that “a thrill would come from fascinating new products” inspired by space-age technology.[iv]

The Space Industry

At the height of the Apollo program, government spending on space reached unprecedented levels, causing Congress and media representatives to take a closer look at the reasons for U.S. domination of the space environment. Escalating costs reinforced delays in mission operations, which in turn drove up costs. As the threat of global Communism slowly ebbed in the late 1980s, once staunch advocates of the American space leadership model abdicated their support in favor of more private sector participation. Although the private sector characteristically supported space exploration initiatives, reliance on commercial capabilities rose in the field of robotics and aeronautics, grounding any notion of manned space-flight activities beyond low Earth orbits, thus minimizing the exhibition of space in popular culture.

While more commercial involvement, such as the development of launch technologies the construction of the international space station and scientific and medical research enhanced production capabilities, the consumer attraction to “space race” related merchandise eventually declined. However, with help from Hollywood films like Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, this market emerged as a subset of popular culture and helped keep space interests alive. Consumer goods continued to display alien fascination through the marketing efforts of the entertainment industry. Furthermore, American innovation, NASA, and the space transportation system (STS) created a symbolic American icon that represented global supremacy which helped foster consumer interest in outer space.

National Identity

Presidents from Kennedy to Bush ‘43 further recognized the importance of an American presence in outer space and the necessity of commercial expansion and support of this endeavor. Interests outlined in their respective space policies sanctioned private sector contributions as part of the national mission. Each president recognized the vital importance of continuing research into aeronautical development and environmental science, areas of research application resulting from the national space program. With the end of the STS, a vision for future transportation and space-oriented goals evolved in the Orion spacecraft development and Constellation human spaceflight program defined in the Vision for Outer Space Exploration and the NASA Authorization Act of 2005. This act specifically called for expanded private-sector contribution toward outer-space exploration.

Thus, in 2010 the U.S. space program reduced its responsibility concerning the management of space exploration in favor of commercial leadership in human outer-space endeavors. The impact of diminished American global importance as the intrepid helmsman signified a reduced geopolitical dominance, but also created opportunities to lead on multiple platforms in the private sector.

Ascertaining the connection between the reduction in authority of the national symbol and the expanded industrial complex seems simple: in a market economy the private-sector acknowledges the burden of responsibility for seemingly discretional government spending. But this shift in fiscal responsibility possibly surrenders influence of the future American presence in space. Maneuvering from the “national identity” posture towards a solely business infrastructure also begs the question of who will pilot commercial ventures in outer-space, establish ethical responsibility and government, or even organize any type of social structure for the people of Earth in a more universal context.

The Space Consumer

Just how did the United States government rely upon the modern consumer market and commercial entities to promote an American presence in outer space in order to achieve global preeminence? The answer: the birth of the space consumer. The story of this interstellar customer reveals a strategy of commercial transition in American space endeavors through an apparent magnitude of policy, technology, and media.

Research in the field on the Cold War, the nuclear arms race, the space race, and consumerism reveal that many factors played a role in the promotion of American leadership in the latter half of the twentieth century, but the most prominent strategy for American success appeared in mass consumption. For example, in the 1950s and 1960s homes displayed modern kitchens and appliances, through the deployment of communications satellites, millions of people witnessed television, heard more radio broadcasts and ordinary people enjoyed overall economic improvement over their Soviet counterparts, enticing them to purchase products.[v] Additionally, Americans purchased toys, automobiles with rocket-shaped fins and cruise control, space food sticks and energy drinks and snacks.

Pop Culture

Initially, the American image arguably made the greatest contribution to space program because it became synonymous with freedom and success. Later, as the “space race” fervor subsided, an atmosphere of cooperation drove consumer interests into space, reflecting a greater commercial involvement with the general public through a subset of space consumerism primarily through the entertainment industry. The commercialization of space through media occurred well before Star Wars entered the market place. Movies dating back to the beginning of the “space race” often included themes related to the Cold War and the possibility of either invasion by aliens, or unification of Earth against other terrestrial forces, or of human manifest destiny to conquer space. Movies such as Destination Moon (1950), The Day the Earth Stood Still, and When Worlds Collide (1951), Invaders From Mars, It Came From Outer Space, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds (1953), Spaceflight IC-1(1965), all tapped into the alien-contact market.[vi] The outer space ethos allowed Hollywood producers to capitalize on associated cultural influences through the medium of film creating an explosive subculture in outer-space entertainment. Additionally, Hollywood movies served as glamorous and alluring advertisements for the possibility of a Western or American standard of living through the continued expansion of space-related endeavors, one of the primary foundations supporting the exceptional position of the United States existed in consumerism.

The transition in private-sector involvement that resulted in a heavy reliance on consumer power to market its position in the world presented the realization that glamorizing the American image at home and abroad was a key factor to a successful space program. The U.S. government accomplished this task through purchasing power, media advertising, technological exhibitionism and commercialism. Commerce established early on between government and civilian entities, including the military and corporate organizations, contributed to the ongoing technological advances well into the twenty-first century.

By 2010, the nearly total reliance of commercial organizations to facilitate the continued American presence in outer-space exploration represented another perspective from which to examine future activities space. Though the onset of the space program was born out of a military mission, consumerism played a key role in its continued existence. Today, government participation reflects the growth of the commercial sector as it takes on the majority of the responsibility for building, operating, and possibly eventually deciding upon what future goals to strive for, what challenges and risks to accept, and in what form established space structures will exist. This exceptional journey will no doubt continue advancing at light speed with the space spender at the helm.

Did you find this article of interest? If so, tell the world! Tweet about it, like it, or share it by clicking on one of the buttons below…

[i] Richard Fox and T.J. Jackson Lears, The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History,1880-1980. (New York: Pantheon Books ,1983). 177.

[ii] Stephen Bates. “Cold War, Hot Kitchen. “Wilson Quarterly 33, no. 3(Summer 2009:12-13). American History and Life. (Accessed August 1, 2012).

[iii] Roland Marchand,. Creating the Corporate Soul: The Rise of Public Relations and Corporate Imagery in American Big Business. (Berkley: University of California Press, 1998). 313.

[v] Victorian De Grazia. Irresistible Empire: America’s Advance Through Twentieth Century Europe. (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2005). 100-125.


Race and Space

Unit Essential Question: What does learning about the choices people made during the Weimar Republic, the rise of the Nazi Party, and the Holocaust teach us about the power and impact of our choices today?

Guiding Questions

  • How did the Nazis’ beliefs about “race and space” influence Germany’s violent aggression toward other nations, groups, and individuals in the first years of World War II?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to explain the relationship between the Nazis’ beliefs about race and their quest for “living space,” and how these ideas played a central role in Germany’s aggression toward other nations, groups, and individuals in the first years of World War II.
  • After analyzing two firsthand accounts, students will be able to explain how the "race and space" ideology provided justification and motivation for many Germans to participate in the Nazi plans for expansion and conquest, just as it led to dire consequences for those of so-called inferior races who lived in the newly conquered lands.

Overview

In the previous lesson, students analyzed the violent pogroms of Kristallnacht, a major escalation in the Nazis’ campaigns against Jews. In this lesson, students will continue this unit’s historical case study by examining the Nazi ideology of “race and space,” a belief system that provided a rationale for their instigation of World War II and their perpetration of genocide. Students will then connect this ideology to Germany’s expansion throughout Europe, including the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland, the invasion of Poland, and eventually the conquest of most of mainland Europe. Finally, students will examine the effects of the Nazis’ beliefs about “race and space” on individuals, through a close reading of eyewitness accounts by two individuals affected in different ways by the Germans’ 1939 invasion of Poland.

Context

Hitler and the Nazis believed that the driving force of history was a struggle between races, a struggle that would only end when the superior race—in Hitler’s view, the Aryans—achieved supremacy over all the other races. By 1939, when Germany invaded Poland and touched off World War II in Europe, the Nazis’ vision of dominance increasingly necessitated the conquest and occupation of other countries. Historian Doris Bergen writes, “For Hitler, these two notions of race and space were intertwined. Any race that was not expanding, he believed, was doomed to disappear. Without living space—land to produce food and raise new generations of soldiers and mothers—a race could not grow.” 1

Germany’s annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938 was a significant first step in the Nazis’ efforts to expand the Reich. The acquisitions represented a symbolic as well as territorial victory. By regaining most of Germany’s World War I losses, Hitler sought to unite ethnic Germans—people of German descent, sharing supposed “German blood”—into one nation. Emboldened by success in Austria and the Sudetenland, in 1939 the Nazis and many Germans were ready to go to war for additional “living space” for their nation. The invasion of Poland that year instigated war in Europe and a succession of German military victories throughout the continent. By December 1941, Germany had conquered most of mainland Europe, from France in the west to the outskirts of Moscow in the Soviet Union in the east. This conquest brought about what Hitler saw as a “New Order” in Europe.

This lesson provides insight into how the Nazis’ racial ideology shaped their military and expansion strategies, ultimately sparking the outbreak of World War II. But it also highlights the cultural aspects of conquest, demonstrating how ordinary Germans’ belief in their ethnic superiority and the righteousness of their work as “cultural missionaries” in foreign countries justified increasingly egregious acts of violence and mass murder. Indeed, the “New Order” the Nazis imposed on Europe carried significant benefits for many Germans. These included enhanced national and racial pride and material gains for German citizens in the form of cheap goods, as well as new jobs, homes, and land in conquered countries.

By reading eyewitness accounts, students will also gain an understanding of how Jews and other people deemed inferior by the Nazis experienced German occupation. For non-Germans, consequences of the Nazi plans for “race and space” were economic loss, horrible suffering, and the death of millions who the Nazis believed could not be productive members of the Reich. These groups included mentally and physically disabled people, whose murder the Nazis justified as a necessity of war. They also included members of what the Nazis considered to be inferior races—such as Poles, Slavs, Roma, and Sinti—who were taken from their homes and often confined to camps and murdered, as well. And of course the Nazi “race and space” worldview involved special contempt for Jews, who were killed in increasing numbers as the war wore on.

Citations

  • 1 : Doris L. Bergen, War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust, 3rd ed. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 52.

Notes to Teacher

Explaining Ideology
This lesson focuses on the meaning and consequences of the Nazi ideology that historians refer to as “race and space.” Ideology can be a complicated concept to explain. In this lesson, it is defined as “a framework of beliefs and ideals about the way the world works.” The first activity in this lesson provides some suggestions for how to explain what an ideology is. Examples of ideologies can be helpful in explaining the concept to students, but it is important for you to choose a few examples that your students likely know about. For instance, if students have taken an American history course that covers westward expansion, they may be familiar with the basic tenets of manifest destiny, making it a good example of an ideology to offer in this lesson. If students are struggling to grasp the meaning of ideology, you might ask them to use the definition and the examples you provide to brainstorm together some additional examples of ideologies that influence people’s choices in the world today. Through the ensuing discussion, evaluating the examples students brainstorm, you can help them zero in on a firmer understanding of the concept.

Creating a Mini-Lecture
One activity in this lesson includes a mini-lecture, which you may choose to transfer to a PowerPoint presentation or some other format for students. If you would like to add images and other multimedia resources, you might choose to incorporate the following related images:

Previewing Vocabulary
The following are key vocabulary terms used in this lesson:

Add these words to your Word Wall, if you are using one for this unit, and provide necessary support to help students learn these words as you teach the lesson.

The Unit Essay Assessment
If your students are writing the final essay assessment for this unit, after teaching this lesson, instruct your students to add evidence from the last four lessons to their evidence logs. For suggested activities and resources, see Adding to Evidence Logs, 2 of 3.

Materials

  • Video: Hitler’s Ideology: Race, Land, and Conquest (Spanish captions available)
  • Map: The Growth of Nazi Germany (see Spanish version)
  • Handout: Notes on the Growth of Nazi Germany, 1933–1939 (see Spanish version)
  • Reading: Colonizing Poland (see Spanish version)
  • Reading: "Cultural Missionaries" (see Spanish version)

Teaching Strategies

Activities

  1. Introduce the Nazi Ideology of “Race and Space”
    • Explain to students that Hitler and the Nazis were motivated by a specific ideology, or a framework of beliefs and ideals about the way the world works. If necessary, take a moment to explain the meaning of ideology, using examples of ideologies students might have heard about (i.e., manifest destiny, nonviolence, white supremacy, environmentalism, capitalism, and other political worldviews).
    • Tell students that historians have referred to the ideology that motivated the Nazis’ actions that started World War II and led to genocide as “race and space.”
    • In the short video Hitler’s Ideology: Race, Land, and Conquest (05:50), historian Doris Bergen introduces this ideology and explains how it is foundational to understanding World War II and the Holocaust. Watch the video with students, and then use the S-I-T teaching strategy to engage students in a discussion.

As the discussion continues, you might pose the following questions to check for understanding:

  • Why does Bergen use the terms race and space to describe Hitler’s ideology? What does she mean by each term?
  • How was Hitler’s belief in a superior Aryan race related to his desire for the conquest of new land? How did this ideology make war necessary, in Hitler’s view?
  • Before students look closely at some effects that the Nazi “race and space” ideology had on the lives of individuals at the beginning of World War II, it is important to provide some basic historical context.
  • Pass out the map The Growth of Nazi Germany and the handout Notes on the Growth of Nazi Germany, 1933–1939, 1933–1939 to students. As you give a mini-lecture covering the numbered notes on the latter handout, have students write the number of each note in the appropriate location on the map.
  • Finish the mini-lecture by reading aloud to students the testimony of the Polish woman Mrs. J. K. in the reading Colonizing Poland . You might give students a moment to jot down any thoughts or feelings they have about the story in their journals before moving on to the next activity.

Debrief the activity with a whole-group discussion of the following question:

What motivated Melita Maschmann to participate in Germany’s policies of expelling Poles and colonizing their land? How did the Nazis’ “race and space” ideology connect to how she thought about her work in Poland?

Reflect on the Influence of Ideology
Finish the lesson by asking students to write a response in their journals to the following prompt:

What are some examples of ideologies that are influential in the world today? Choose one that you have encountered in your own life or have read about in the news and write about how it influences, positively or negatively, people’s choices and experiences.

Assessment

  • Collect the notecards that students completed as part of the Save the Last Word for Me activity to gauge their understanding of the text, the “race and space” ideology, and how it influenced Germans like Maschmann.
  • Students’ responses to the closing journal prompt about ideology in the world today can help you verify their understanding of the concept and see how they are thinking about the influence of powerful systems of belief on human behavior. If you have established that student journals are private in your classroom, assign students to complete the reflection on a separate piece of paper to turn in if you want to use this reflection for assessment.

Extensions

Further Investigate the Invasion and Colonization of Poland
To help students further contextualize the political, cultural, and social effects of the German occupation of Poland, you might share the following readings from Chapter 8 of Holocaust and Human Behavior: The War against Poland: Speed and Brutality, Dividing Poland and Its People, and Colonizing Poland. Each reading is followed by connection questions that you can use to help guide students’ analysis and discussion.

Explore the Nazis’ Secret War against People with Disabilities
The Nazis’ “race and space” ideology also led them to target people with disabilities, who Hitler believed were “marginal human beings.” Programs such as the T4 “euthanasia” program involved the medical killing of about 70,000 people with epilepsy, alcoholism, birth defects, hearing loss, mental illnesses, and personality disorders, as well as those who had vision loss or developmental delays or who even suffered from certain orthopedic problems. You can share the following resources with students to introduce them to the Nazis’ medical killing program and the range of responses to it, from complicity to protest, by a variety of Germans:


Ten Enduring Myths About the U.S. Space Program

1. “The U.S. space program enjoyed broad, enthusiastic support during the race to land a man on the Moon.”

Throughout the 1960s, public opinion polls indicated that 45 to 60 percent of Americans felt that the government was spending too much money on space exploration. Even after Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap for mankind,” only a lukewarm 53 percent of the public believed that the historic event had been worth the cost.

“The decision to proceed with Apollo was not made because it was enormously popular with the public, despite general acquiescence, but for hard-edged political reasons,” writes Roger D. Launius, the senior curator at Smithsonian’s divison of space history, in the journal Space Policy. “Most of these were related to the Cold War crises of the early 1960s, in which spaceflight served as a surrogate for face-to-face military confrontation.” However, that acute sense of crisis was fleeting—and with it, enthusiasm for the Apollo program.

2. “The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is part of NASA.”

The SETI Institute is a private, nonprofit organization consisting of three research centers. The program is not part of NASA nor is there a government National SETI Agency.

NASA did participate in modest SETI efforts decades ago, and by 1977, the NASA Ames Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) had created small programs to search for extraterrestrial signals. Ames promoted a “targeted search” of stars similar to our sun, while JPL—arguing that there was no way to accurately predict where extraterrestrial civilizations might exist—endorsed a “full sky survey.”

Those plans came to fruition on October 12, 1992—the 500-year anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World. Less than a year later, however, Nevada Senator Richard Bryan, citing budget pressures, successfully introduced legislation that killed the project, declaring that “The Great Martian Chase may finally come to an end.”

While NASA no longer combs the skies for extraterrestrial signals, it continues to fund space missions and research projects devoted to finding evidence of life on other worlds. Edward Weiler, an astrophysicist and associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters, told Smithsonian magazine: “As long as we have water, energy and organic material, the potential for life is everywhere.”

3. “The Moon landing was a hoax.”

According to a 1999 Gallup poll, 6 percent of Americans doubted that the Moon landing actually happened, while another 5 percent declared themselves “undecided.”

The Moon landing conspiracy theory has endured for more than 40 years, thanks in part to a thriving cottage industry of conspiracy entrepreneurs—beginning in 1974, when technical writer Bill Kaysing produced a self-published book, We Never Went to the Moon: America's Thirty Billion Dollar Swindle.

Arguing that 1960s technology was incapable of sending astronauts to the Moon and returning them safely, authors and documentary filmmakers have claimed, among other things, that the Apollo missions were faked to avoid embarrassment for the U.S. government, or were staged to divert public attention from the escalating war in Vietnam.

Perhaps one reason for the durability of the Moon hoax theory is that it is actually several conspiracy theories wrapped up in one. Each piece of “evidence” has taken on a life of its own, including such accusations as: the astronauts’ film footage would have melted due to the extreme heat of the lunar surface you can only leave a footprint in moist soil and the American flag appears to be fluttering in the non-existent lunar wind.

The scientific debunking of these and other pieces of evidence can be found at NASA’s website—or, at least, that’s what we’ve been led to believe.

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence Institute is a private, nonprofit organization and is not part of NASA. However, NASA did participate in modest SETI efforts decades ago but is no longer combing the skies for extraterrestrial signals. (Associated Press) NASA lost three spacecrafts destined for Mars: the Mars Observer, the Mars Polar Lander, pictured, and the Mars Climate Orbiter. One myth about the U.S. space program is that during the 1990s, NASA deliberately destroyed its own Mars space probes. (NASA) The expression "A-Okay" is attributed to astronaut Alan Shepard during the first U.S. suborbital spaceflight on May 5, 1961. Transcripts from that mission reveal that Shepard never said "A-Okay." It was NASA's public relations officer for Project Mercury, Col. John "Shorty" Powers, who coined the phrase. (NASA) Proponents of unmanned space exploration make the case that the most essential element for sustaining public interest are missions that produce new images and data. Shown here is Mars rover Spirit in 2009. (NASA) Initially, John F. Kennedy saw winning the space race against the Soviet Union as a way to enhance America's prestige and, more broadly, to demonstrate to the world what democratic societies could accomplish. (Bettmann / Corbis) The Moon landing conspiracy theory has endured for more than 40 years, thanks in part to a thriving cottage industry of conspiracy entrepreneurs. (NASA)

4. “During the 1990s, NASA deliberately destroyed its own Mars space probes.”

Mars is the planetary equivalent of Charlie Brown’s kite-eating tree. During the 1990s, NASA lost three spacecraft destined for the Red Planet: the Mars Observer (which, in 1993, terminated communication just three days before entering orbit) the Mars Polar Lander (which, in 1999, is believed to have crashed during its descent to the Martian surface) and the Mars Climate Orbiter (which, in 1999, burned up in Mars’ upper atmosphere).

Conspiracy theorists claimed that either aliens had destroyed the spacecraft or that NASA had destroyed its own probes to cover-up evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization.

The most detailed accusation of sabotage appeared in a controversial 2007 book, Dark Mission: The Secret History of NASA, which declared “no cause for the [Mars Observer’s] loss was ever satisfactorily determined.”

Dark Horizon “came within one tick mark of making it onto the New York Times bestsellers list for paperback non-fiction,” bemoaned veteran space author and tireless debunker James Oberg in the online journal The Space Review. In that same article, he points out the book’s numerous errors, including the idea that there was never a satisfactory explanation for the probe’s demise. An independent investigation conducted by the Naval Research Laboratory concluded that gases from a fuel rupture caused the Mars Observer to enter a high spin rate, “causing the spacecraft to enter into the ‘contingency mode,’ which interrupted the stored command sequence and thus, did not turn the transmitter on.”

NASA did have a noteworthy success in the 1990s, with the 1997 landing of the 23-pound Mars rover, the Pathfinder. That is, of course, if you believe it landed on Mars. Some say that the rover’s images were broadcast from Albuquerque.

5. “Alan Shepard is A-Okay.”

Several famous inventions have been mistakenly attributed to the space program—Tang, Velcro and Teflon, just to name a few.

Most of these claims have been widely debunked. However, one of the most enduring spinoffs attributed to NASA is the introduction of the expression “A-Okay” into everyday vernacular.

The quote is attributed to astronaut Alan Shepard, during the first U.S. suborbital spaceflight on May 5, 1961. The catchphrase caught on—not unlike the expression “five-by-five,” which began as a radio term describing a clear signal.

Transcripts from that space mission, however, reveal that Shepard never said “A-Okay.” It was NASA’s public relations officer for Project Mercury, Col. John “Shorty” Powers, who coined the phrase—attributing it to Shepard—during a post-mission press briefing.

6. “NASA's budget accounts for nearly one-fourth of government spending.”

A 2007 poll conducted by a Houston-based consulting company found that Americans believe that 24 percent of the federal budget is allocated to NASA. That figure is in keeping with earlier surveys, such as a 1997 poll that reported the average estimate was 20 percent.

In truth, NASA’s budget as a percentage of federal spending peaked at 4.4 percent in 1966, and hasn’t risen above 1 percent since 1993. Today, the U.S. space program accounts for less than one-half of 1 percent of all federal spending.

A 2009 Gallup poll found that most Americans—when told the actual amount spent by the space program—continue to express support for the current level of funding for NASA (46 percent) or an expansion of it (14 percent).

7. “The STS-48 UFO”

Photographs and videos taken by U.S. spacecraft have opened up a whole new vista for alleged UFO sightings. Among the most famous of these is a video sequence recorded by the space shuttle Discovery (Mission STS-48), while in orbit on September 15, 1991.

A description of the video appears on numerous websites and newsgroups:

“A glowing object suddenly appeared just below the horizon and ‘slowly’ moved from right to left and slightly upward in the picture. Several other glowing objects had been visible before this, and had been moving in various directions. Then a flash of light occurred at what seemed to be the lower left of the screen and the main object, along with the others, changed direction and accelerated away sharply, as if in response to the flash.”

UFO enthusiasts claim the video shows that the space shuttle was being followed by extraterrestrial spacecraft, which then fled in response to a ground-based laser attack. The footage was aired by media outlets such as CNN’s “Larry King Live” (which challenged viewers to “Judge for yourself”).

The UFOs were, in fact, small fragments of orbital flotsam and jetsam. As space author James Oberg has explained, there are more than 50 sources of water, ice and debris on the shuttle—including an air dump line, a waste water dump line and 38 reaction control system (RCS) thrusters that are used for attitude control and steering.

So, his explanation for the events in the video?

“The RCS jets usually fire in 80-millisecond pulses to keep the shuttle pointed in a desired direction….These jets may flash when they ignite if the mixture ratio is not quite right…When small, drifting debris particles are hit by this RCS plume they are violently accelerated away from the jet. This is what is seen [in the video], where a flash (the jet firing) is immediately followed by all nearby particles being pushed away from the jet, followed shortly later by a fast, moving object (evidently RCS fuel ice) departing from the direction of the jet.”

8. “The Fisher Space Pen ‘brought the astronauts home.’”

In his book, Men from Earth, Buzz Aldrin describes a brief moment when it seemed that the Apollo 11 lander might be stranded on the lunar surface: "We discovered during a long checklist recitation that the ascent engine's arming circuit breaker was broken off on the panel. The little plastic pin (or knob) simply wasn't there. This circuit would send electrical power to the engine that would lift us off the Moon.”

What happened next is the stuff of legend. The astronauts reached for their Fisher Space Pen—fitted with a cartridge of pressurized nitrogen, allowing it to write without relying on gravity—and wedged it into the switch housing, completing the circuit and enabling a safe return.

True enough, except that the astronauts didn’t use the Fisher Space Pen. Aldrin relied on a felt-tip marker, since the non-conductive tip would close the contact without shorting it out, or causing a spark.

The myth endures, in part, because the Fisher Space Pen company knew an opportunity when it saw one. They began promoting their product as the writing instrument that had “brought the astronauts home.”

9. “President John F. Kennedy wanted America to beat the Soviet Union to the Moon.”

Had JFK not been assassinated in 1963, it is possible that the space race to the Moon would instead have been a joint venture with the Soviet Union.

Initially, the young president saw winning the space race as a way to enhance America’s prestige and, more broadly, to demonstrate to the world what democratic societies could accomplish.

However, JFK began to think differently as relations with the Soviet Union gradually thawed in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis and the costs of the Moon program became increasingly exorbitant. Nor was America confident at that time that it could beat the Soviet Union. And, in his recent book, John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon, space historian John Logsdon notes that the president also believed that the offer of a cooperative mission could be used as a bargaining chip in Washington’s diplomatic dealings with Moscow.

In a September 1963 speech before the United Nations, JFK publicly raised the possibility of a joint expedition: “Space offers no problems of sovereignty…why, therefore, should man’s first flight to the moon be a matter of national competition? Why should the United States and the Soviet Union, in preparing for such expeditions, become involved in immense duplications of research, construction and expenditure?”

But, the prospect of a U.S.-Soviet mission to the Moon died with Kennedy. Winning the space race continued to drive the Apollo program. Eventually, “the U.S. space program, and particularly the lunar landing effort,” Logsdon writes, became “a memorial” to JFK, who had pledged to send a man to the Moon and return him safely by the end of the decade.

10. “No Buck Rogers, No Bucks.”

For decades, scientists and policy-makers have debated whether space exploration is better suited to human beings or robots.

While there are many solid arguments in favor of manned exploration, the most frequently cited one is arguably the least convincing: without spacefaring heroes, the nation’s interest in space science and exploration will dwindle. Or, to paraphrase a line from The Right Stuff, “no Buck Rogers, no bucks.”

“Don’t believe for a minute that the American public is as excited about unmanned programs as they are about manned ones,” cautioned Franklin Martin, NASA’s former associate administrator for its office of exploration, in an interview with Popular Science. “You don’t give ticker tape parades to robots no matter how exciting they are.”

But the American public’s fascination with images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the sagas of the robotic Mars rovers Pathfinder (1997), Spirit (2004) and Opportunity (2004, and still operating) belies the assertion that human beings are vital participants. Proponents of unmanned space exploration make the case that the most essential element for sustaining public interest are missions that produce new images and data, and which challenge our notions of the universe. “There is an intrinsic excitement to astronomy in general and cosmology in particular, quite apart from the spectator sport of manned spaceflight,” writes the famed philosopher and physicist Freeman Dyson, who offers a verse from the ancient mathematician Ptolemy: “I know that I am mortal and a creature of one day
 but when my mind follows the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth.”


For All Mankind review: A superb alternative history of the space race

YOU may have been put off For All Mankind by the pretty mediocre reviews it received when it first came out as part of the Apple TV+ launch. “Adequately entertaining” was one verdict “moves too slowly” was another. I think those reviews were unfair.

The show does take a while to put on its afterburners, but that shouldn’t be a surprise given it was created by Ronald D. Moore, who was behind the brilliant 2003 reboot of Battlestar Galactica. This had an enormous amount of character set up and humdrum daily life (albeit on a spaceship) before, in a thrilling heartbeat, the crew of the Galactica finally understood what was happening.

In For All Mankind Moore deliberately sets a scene that is almost nauseatingly familiar, in order to upend it. We begin with strong-jawed, white, male NASA astronauts going back and forth between flight training and their thin, pretty, chain-smoking wives in those 1960s shift dresses.

Read more: After years of sexism in space we urgently need more female astronauts

At mission control we are served row upon row of men in dark-rimmed spectacles chewing pencils and doing flight calculations on bits of paper. There are women, but they are holding trays of tea or, at best, working in the back-up team.

Then comes the first what-if twist: the Soviet Union gets boots on the moon first. Suddenly we are plunged into an alternate timeline, in which the space race heats up rather than down, and a moon base becomes a US priority.

“Moore deliberately sets a scene that is almost nauseatingly familiar, in order to upend it”

It is the second what-if twist, though, that packs the punch. While the US scrambles to get its act together, the Soviets land on the moon for a second time. On 1960s TV sets we see a cosmonaut standing on the lunar surface. Then up comes their mirror visor, and it is a woman.

This is when For All Mankind bursts into life. The women in those background shots at NASA and the wives watching at home can’t believe their eyes. The Soviet Union has put a woman on the moon, while the US doesn’t have a single woman in astronaut training.

Now, on Nixon’s personal orders, NASA scrambles together 20 female pilots for an emergency space training programme. Joel Kinnaman, who plays fictional astronaut Ed Baldwin, has top billing in this show and is excellent. But it is an ensemble piece, and Baldwin’s credibility as our hero is largely measured by the grace with which he responds to the new trainees.

Read more: Women are finally getting equal access to the Hubble Space Telescope

The female astronaut candidates are all well written and acted, but most fun is Molly Cobb (played by Sonya Walger). Cobb was part of the Mercury 13 programme: she has proved she has what it takes. But her dreams have already been squished once, and so she is deeply cynical about the new training programme. Her tolerance for being patronised by male astronauts, meanwhile, is set to absolute zero.

There are beautifully played moments as Baldwin and the men learn how to get along with Cobb, while she in turn learns what it means to be a team player and a role model. One of the great things about this show is that you don’t know which rocket will crash, or who will get to the moon.

Nothing is ever perfect, and not every plot line in For All Mankind works, but this is a great show and more than deserves its upcoming second season. Also, if you have daughters, definitely watch it with them. Even if they have no plans to join NASA, I think they will find it inspirational.

Emily also recommends…

Also by Ronald D. Moore, this game-changing show proved that sci-fi involving robots that looked like humans could also be seeringly political and relevant. Kind of!

Also starring For All Mankind’s Joel Kinnaman, this is set far in the future in a near-exact copy of the Bladerunner universe. It is very violent and at times very silly, but it is great fun. Season 2 is out soon on Netflix.


The Strange Cold War History of the Soviet Engines in the Antares Rocket

When an Antares rocket went up in a huge fireball last week at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, observers looking to quickly assign blame for the crash pointed their fingers in a surprising direction: Russia. The culprits, they speculated, were the Russian-made NK-33 engines used to power the rockets. Decades old and relics of the Cold War, these obscure machines turned into a political tool. With relations between Moscow and the West at their lowest point since the Cold War’s end, of course the Russian bogeyman could be spotted lurking in the shadows of this Virginia disaster.

But where did these engines come from? And how did they end up on an American rocket that is one of the main competitors to Paypal co-founder Elon Musk’s dreams of commercial space dominance?

The answer lies in the obscure history of another failed rocket. In the depths of the Cold War, the Soviet Union suddenly and unexpectedly found itself losing the space race. After beating the Americans off the starting block by putting the first satellite in space and first achieving manned space flight, the United States was racing toward the moon. The Russians, it turned out, were missing the huge moon rocket necessary to sling men and materiel more than 200,000 miles from the earth.

Not that they didn’t try. The Soviet answer to America’s Saturn rocket was dubbed the N-1 and represented a massive experiment in rocket science. Lacking huge rocket engines and the manufacturing capability to build them, the Soviets constructed a gargantuan rocket whose first stage was powered by 30 smaller rocket engines.

That engine was dubbed the NK-33 and represented a marvel of rocket science. Liquid-fueled rockets function by mixing a hydrocarbon — typically kerosene — with oxygen that then ignites in a combustion chamber. By raising the pressure in the combustion chamber, it is possible to generate even more thrust from that violent reaction. To do so, a pre-burner is used to pump the fuel at higher speeds. The Soviet innovation was to “close” this cycle and funnel the exhausts from the pre-burner into the combustion chamber. Previously, those exhausts had been vented to the engine’s side, wasting energy and possible power.

The NK-33’s design did something that American engineers thought had been impossible. Closing the cycle created a precarious balance within the rocket engine that operated at the edge of physics, producing previously unheard of efficiency and power.

But the N-1 was a doomed project. Early versions of the rocket blew up shortly after take-off, and its designers failed to produce a reliable version. To give a sense of both the rocket’s scale and its ambitions, one of the N-1 crashes resulted in what is believed to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions to have ever taken place on earth.

The Soviets had lost the race to the moon, and the technological marvel that was the NK-33 was mothballed and stashed away in a Russian warehouse where the engines sat unused for decades.

It was only after the Soviet Union collapsed that American engineers realized what a treasure they had in Russia’s rocket stores. The Soviets, it turned out, had managed to construct rocket engines that were in many ways more capable than their American counterparts. “We looked at the Russian stuff and did a number of calculations to understand what they were telling us,” Bob Ford, a Lockheed Martin engineer who traveled to Russia to learn about Soviet rocket engines, told Wired in 2001. “It was eye-popping.”

American rocket engineers quickly realized that they could buy Soviet engines on the cheap and repurpose them in their own rockets. Refurbished and outfitted with more modern technology and electronics, the NK-33 is now used in Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, and the bigger, more powerful RD-180 is used in the Atlas rocket.

For a sense of the power of one of these engines, see this video of an NK-33 being test fired by NASA. (The NK-33 is also known as the AJ26, in its refurbished and slightly modernized form.)

But America’s dependence on Russian rockets has now turned into a political flashpoint. The RD-180 is manufactured in the United States under license, and some observers fear that Russia might deny its renewal as relations between Moscow and Washington continue their downward slide.

And for entrepreneurs like Musk, this political subplot to the story of these Russian super-engines represents a business opportunity. “One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke,” he told Wired in 2012. “It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the 󈨀s. I don’t mean their design is from the 󈨀s-I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the 󈨀s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.”

Last week, he was singing a very different tune:

Sorry to hear about the @OrbitalSciences launch. Hope they recover soon.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2014

When an Antares rocket went up in a huge fireball last week at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, observers looking to quickly assign blame for the crash pointed their fingers in a surprising direction: Russia. The culprits, they speculated, were the Russian-made NK-33 engines used to power the rockets. Decades old and relics of the Cold War, these obscure machines turned into a political tool. With relations between Moscow and the West at their lowest point since the Cold War’s end, of course the Russian bogeyman could be spotted lurking in the shadows of this Virginia disaster.

But where did these engines come from? And how did they end up on an American rocket that is one of the main competitors to Paypal co-founder Elon Musk’s dreams of commercial space dominance?

The answer lies in the obscure history of another failed rocket. In the depths of the Cold War, the Soviet Union suddenly and unexpectedly found itself losing the space race. After beating the Americans off the starting block by putting the first satellite in space and first achieving manned space flight, the United States was racing toward the moon. The Russians, it turned out, were missing the huge moon rocket necessary to sling men and materiel more than 200,000 miles from the earth.

Not that they didn’t try. The Soviet answer to America’s Saturn rocket was dubbed the N-1 and represented a massive experiment in rocket science. Lacking huge rocket engines and the manufacturing capability to build them, the Soviets constructed a gargantuan rocket whose first stage was powered by 30 smaller rocket engines.

That engine was dubbed the NK-33 and represented a marvel of rocket science. Liquid-fueled rockets function by mixing a hydrocarbon — typically kerosene — with oxygen that then ignites in a combustion chamber. By raising the pressure in the combustion chamber, it is possible to generate even more thrust from that violent reaction. To do so, a pre-burner is used to pump the fuel at higher speeds. The Soviet innovation was to “close” this cycle and funnel the exhausts from the pre-burner into the combustion chamber. Previously, those exhausts had been vented to the engine’s side, wasting energy and possible power.

The NK-33’s design did something that American engineers thought had been impossible. Closing the cycle created a precarious balance within the rocket engine that operated at the edge of physics, producing previously unheard of efficiency and power.

But the N-1 was a doomed project. Early versions of the rocket blew up shortly after take-off, and its designers failed to produce a reliable version. To give a sense of both the rocket’s scale and its ambitions, one of the N-1 crashes resulted in what is believed to be one of the largest non-nuclear explosions to have ever taken place on earth.

The Soviets had lost the race to the moon, and the technological marvel that was the NK-33 was mothballed and stashed away in a Russian warehouse where the engines sat unused for decades.

It was only after the Soviet Union collapsed that American engineers realized what a treasure they had in Russia’s rocket stores. The Soviets, it turned out, had managed to construct rocket engines that were in many ways more capable than their American counterparts. “We looked at the Russian stuff and did a number of calculations to understand what they were telling us,” Bob Ford, a Lockheed Martin engineer who traveled to Russia to learn about Soviet rocket engines, told Wired in 2001. “It was eye-popping.”

American rocket engineers quickly realized that they could buy Soviet engines on the cheap and repurpose them in their own rockets. Refurbished and outfitted with more modern technology and electronics, the NK-33 is now used in Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, and the bigger, more powerful RD-180 is used in the Atlas rocket.

For a sense of the power of one of these engines, see this video of an NK-33 being test fired by NASA. (The NK-33 is also known as the AJ26, in its refurbished and slightly modernized form.)

But America’s dependence on Russian rockets has now turned into a political flashpoint. The RD-180 is manufactured in the United States under license, and some observers fear that Russia might deny its renewal as relations between Moscow and Washington continue their downward slide.

And for entrepreneurs like Musk, this political subplot to the story of these Russian super-engines represents a business opportunity. “One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke,” he told Wired in 2012. “It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the 󈨀s. I don’t mean their design is from the 󈨀s-I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the 󈨀s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.”

Last week, he was singing a very different tune:

Sorry to hear about the @OrbitalSciences launch. Hope they recover soon.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2014

Musk is currently battling for control of the rapidly growing commercial space industry, and the quality of rocket engines is one key front on which that war is being waged. Musk’s SpaceX makes an engine that is similar to the NK-33 and is called the Merlin. It represents the workhorse of his space fleet, and if Musk is able to convince his customers — primarily the U.S. government — that he has built a superior machine, he will be well on his way to crushing his competition.

According to Brian Weeden, the technical adviser for the Secure World Foundation and a space policy expert, Musk has a point in his arguments against the NK-33. Musk’s Merlin engine is made in-house in his company’s facilities, and SpaceX has a much better sense of the engine’s strengths and weaknesses. And like the Soviets, Musk plans to use several of these smaller engines to power his heavy-lift rocket.

Left unsaid is that an engine made by Soviet engineers in the 1960s is effectively competing with a brand-new American design. The NK-33 is by some measures more powerful than the Merlin, and its continued use is a testament to the quality of the old design.

And these old rocket engines are helping keep Musk’s competitors in the game. Orbital Sciences’ expertise lies in satellite design and manufacture, not rockets. The use of the NK-33 offers Orbital Sciences entry into the market at a low price-point. “I would look at this in the context of a business decision made by one U.S. space company,” Weeden said.

In fact, the NK-33 isn’t the only foreign component in Orbital Sciences $200 million Antares rocket. Its first stage is manufactured by a Ukrainian firm, the KB Yuzhnoye design bureau.

But the most telling aspect of Orbital Sciences’ dependence on Russian space technology can be found out at Wallops, a facility on the Virginia coastline, where some signs are posted in both English and Russian:


This is How the Space Race Changed the Great Power Rivalry Forever

The zeal the United States and USSR had to outperform one another in the Space Race was beneficial to scientific progress.

The Space Race between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics post World War II was a tipping point in the history of mankind. This superpower race intensified the Cold War rivalry because for the first time mankind was looking to compete in the arena of space. Dominance over space and the race to outdo one another became a matter of pride for both the United States and USSR.

The competition to conquer space was so huge that a new benchmark was set by one of the two superpowers almost every year throughout 1950s and 1960s. There were many “firsts” during the Space Race. The first intercontinental ballistic missile in 1957, the first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1) in 1957, the first dog in orbit (sent by Sputnik 2) in 1957, the first solar-powered satellite, the first communication satellite, etc.

The Space Race didn’t just leave an impact on the area of space research, it left a wider impact in the field of technology. The technological superiority required for the dominance of space was deemed a necessity for national security, and it was symbolic of ideological superiority. The Space Race spawned pioneering efforts to launch artificial satellites. It prompted competitive countries to send unmanned space probes to the Moon, Venus and Mars. It also made possible human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and to the Moon.

The zeal the United States and USSR had to outperform one another proved quite beneficial to the progress of science. The work culture of the two superpowers was poles apart yet both were trying to be better than the other in order to become the best in the world. While the USSR had a highly centralized setup that had an impact on the source of investments in their space program, the United States, on the other hand, got private players to to invest in their space program. NASA, the premiere space research agency, was also built in 1958 during the Space Race to counter the early success in USSR in outer space.

The Space Race started with the USSR launching Sputnik 1 in 1957, which created a furor worldwide. The governments and masses were excited to see mankind taking another leap towards progress. When the human race ventured into space, it was a “paradigm shift” moment. Neil Armstrong landing on Moon is still regarded as one of the breakpoints in history and his words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for the mankind,” are now one of the most quoted phrases in literature.

In a May 1961 speech to Congress, President John F. Kennedy presented his views on the Space Race when he said, “These are extraordinary times and we face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength as well as our convictions has imposed upon this nation the role of leader in freedom’s cause.”

“If we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. . . . Now it is time to take longer strides—time for a great new American enterprise—time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on Earth,” he added.

The space programs of both the superpowers were not just for civilian purposes it was as much about the military-space program. Through this, the idea was to fight the battle with the rival by displaying power without actually having to fight an actual war. At that point, the United Nations had to step in to ensure that outer space didn’t become a battleground for the superpowers.

That is when the Outer Space Treaty came into picture. The Outer Space Treaty represents the basic legal framework of international-space law. Formally known as Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies, the treaty bars states party to the treaty from placing weapons of mass destruction in orbit of Earth, installing them on the Moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise stationing them in outer space.

It exclusively limits the use of the Moon and other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes and expressly prohibits their use for testing weapons of any kind, conducting military maneuvers, or establishing military bases, installations and fortifications. Soviets were reluctant to sign this treaty because, in their opinion, the treaty would restrict their dominance over the United States in the Space Race. They later signed the treaty in 1967 when it was opened for signatures. To date, more than one hundred nations have become signatories to the treaty.

The Space Race didn’t have an end date and in many ways the race still continues. But the “space rivalry” ended between the United States and USSR in 1975, when the first multinational human-crewed mission went to space under the Apollo-Soyuz joint-test mission. In that mission, three U.S. astronauts and two Soviet cosmonauts became the part of first joint U.S.-Soviet space flight.

The Space Race left a legacy in the field of space research worldwide. As the pioneers of space missions, both the United States and USSR helped their allies build their space missions through the training of scientists and engineers, the transferring of technology, and by allowing other researchers to visit their space laboratories. That way, both superpowers could learn and improve their knowledge and skills related to space research.

The Indian space mission was in its very nascent stage when the Space Race was at its peak. The Indian space program owes its development and expansion to the aid and assistance of both the United States and the USSR because Indian space scientists and engineers were sent to train in both those countries. As a nonaligned country, India maintained a delicate balance between keeping good relations with both the superpowers, especially in the arena of space cooperation. As a result, the Indian Space Research Organisation went on to become one of the best space research institutions in the world.

In conclusion, the Space Race is one of the most iconic moments in the history of mankind. It is quite difficult to assess its full impact in the area of space research and technology. One thing is for sure though—if there had been no Space Race, then surely the world of space research and space missions would be quite different from what it is today.

Martand Jha is a junior research fellow at Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of International Studies Center for Russian and Central Asian Studies in New Delhi, India.


Watch the video: The Great Space Race (January 2022).