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Race to the Moon
By Laura G. Smith
1 On July 20, 1969, millions of curious viewers hovered around their television sets to observe history in the making as astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon's rocky surface and uttered the famous words-"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." It was a moment of triumph as America celebrated the first manned lunar landing.
2 Space travel has captured the interest of people across the globe for many decades and was once considered a way to measure the success of a country's leadership in science, engineering, and national defense.
3 The United States and Russia competed with each other in developing space programs. In the 1960's and 1970's, this "space race" drove both nations to tremendous exploratory efforts.
4 Space travel began on October 4, 1957 when Russia launched Sputnik I, the first artificial satellite to circle the earth. Man-made satellites are referred to as "artificial" because they are not a natural occurrence like the moon. These satellites orbit the earth for varying lengths of time depending on their size and distance from the earth, and they collect and transmit information that is used for a variety of purposes. Artificial satellites can be categorized as weather, communication, navigation, scientific, or military satellites.
5 To stay in orbit, an artificial satellite must maintain a certain speed, or it will fall into the atmosphere and burn up. Most satellites stop working long before they fall to earth. Their batteries go dead or their electronic equipment fails, and they become useless. There are dozens of inactive satellites now circling the earth.
6 Russia's second artificial satellite, Sputnik II, was launched in November of 1957 carrying a dog named Laika, the first animal sent into orbit. As scientists studied how animals responded physically to space travel, it helped them to prepare humans for the challenges they would face under the same conditions.
7 The United States sent its first artificial satellite, Explorer I, into orbit on January 31, 1958. In the months and years following, the U.S. launched many other satellites for the purpose of gathering and transmitting information to the earth. In December of 1958, the first communications satellite was launched in a flight called Project Score. In 1959, the first weather satellite, Vanguard II, sent pictures of clouds to earth. Russia launched far fewer satellites than the United States.
8 April 12, 1961 marked the beginning of manned space flights as Russian cosmonaut, Yuri A. Gagarin orbited the earth in the spaceship Vostok I. America followed close behind launching its first manned flight on May 5, 1961 as astronaut Alan B. Shepherd, Jr. flew in Freedom 7. The flight only lasted 15 minutes, and Shepherd did not go into orbit.
9 John H. Glenn, Jr., became the first American to orbit the earth. He made three revolutions on February 20, 1962, during his five-hour flight on Friendship 7.
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