Eddie S. Jackson
LI499: Bachelor's Capstone in Liberal Studies
Introduction It was John F. Kennedy who said, “We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” (right); a historical statement spoken on
May 25, 1961 that would mark the beginning of the
United States’ greatest adventure, and start the countdown
to landing on the Moon (John F. Kennedy Presidential
Library and Museum, 2011). While the U.S. developing
space program led to major technological advancements in electrical, mechanical, and aeronautical engineering, which ultimately allowed Americans to land on the Moon, the Space Race would also change American society by affecting human behavior, human expression, and ethics on a national level.
To better understand the far-reaching effects of the U.S. space program, one needs to consider the historical timeline. The space program timeline begins in the post-World War II years, often referred to as the “golden age” of America. The economics and prosperity of the United States were expanding; its power was unchallenged; and, the nation was recognized as a leader on the world stage. However, there was a looming event that would not only challenge the United States’ growing power, but also change the course of its history.
Sputnik The date was October 4, 1957 when the United States received word that the Soviet Union had successfully launched the world’s first artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit; it was known as Sputnik (see below) (Garber, 2007); Americans were stunned. The Sputnik event was highly significant because the successful
launch marked an enormous technical
achievement. Also, as stated by Gene Kranz
(2009), a NASA flight director, “The impact of
the first orbiting satellite, visible to the naked
eye as it passed through the night sky over American,
was profound.” Americans were caught off guard by this news due to the fact that the Soviet
Union was not known for being highly technological when it came to flight; the Soviets
were definitely not considered progressive enough for space flight. If the Soviet Union could launch a satellite into space, it would not be long before the country would have the ability to launch ballistic missiles extremely long distances; the scary part, which many Americans feared at the time, was that perhaps the Soviets already had long-range strike capability, and that these missiles could carry nuclear weapons from Europe to the United States (Garber, 2007). Thus, because of this new fear, and military, industrial awareness, the United States would form a new, more extensive space program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); NASA would not only send man to the Moon and back, but would also act as a biodefense for the entire nation (Wagner, 2002); and, the Space Race had begun.