When examing the Soviet Union during the Nikita Khrushchev era, many people think about the start of the Space Race between the USSR and the USA. The competition dominated the 1960s as both nations wanted to be the first, and, perhaps most powerful, nation in space. Growing up in America, I was always taught and told that the Americans won the Space Race since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon first before the USSR. I would argue, however, that while the US did land on the Moon first, they continuously came in second place against the Soviet Union throughout the 1950s and 60s. This raises the question: Who actually won the Space Race?
The Space Race began in 1955 when the Soviet Union faced off against the United States in regard to which country would be the dominating nation in space. The first major event occurred on October 4, 1957, when the USSR launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to enter space (Freeze 423). This milestone was massive for both scientific and political reasons as the USSR was able to claim the first victory in the 12-year competition. Following this, the Soviet Union continued to build on their initial success as they were first in sending a dog into space in November 1957, putting a man in space with Yuri Gagarin in April 1961, and the first man who performed a spacewalk in March 1965 (Conger). In each of these achievements, the Soviet Union had continuously proven that they were better than the United States in dominating space.
Responding to their losses, the United States continued to move the goalposts so that they could eventually claim victory in winning the Space Race. This ultimately would lead to the Moon being the final contest as every other contest was already won by the USSR. As everyone is already aware, the US would win this final battle and, accordingly, claim victory in the Space Race that had dominated the past decade. This claim is not based in reality, however, as the US only won the final part of the much larger competition with the USSR. Moreover, the US also spent over $25 billion on the Space Race while the USSR spent less than half of that (Conger). All of this contributes to raising the ultimate question: Who actually won the Space Race? In my opinion, I think that the US simply changed the rules to the competition until they were able to finally win. In turn, I believe that the Soviet Union is the true winners of the Space Race.
Conger, Cristen. “Did NASA Win the Space Race?” HowStuffWorks Science, HowStuffWorks, 27 Jan. 2020, science.howstuffworks.com/nasa-space-race1.htm.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.
“Space 101: The Space Race, The Galactic Gal.” The Galactic Gal, 13 Dec. 2019, www.thegalacticgal.com/2019/11/29/space-101-the-space-race/.
Wall, Mike. “Space Race: Could the U.S. Have Beaten the Soviets Into Space?” Space.com, Space, 8 Apr. 2011, www.space.com/11336-space-race-united-states-soviets-spaceflight-50years.html.