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Who won the space race? Another great question. The answer can be looked at from three different angles: who struck first, who pulled ahead, and who learned to work together.The Russian space program struck first by launching Sputnik 1 followed shortly by the manned flight by Yuri Gagarin. Launched in 1957, Sputnik 1 was the first artificial orbiting satellite. Score one for the Russians. Nest, in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to go into space. Round two goes to the Russians.
The measuring stick as to who won the space race is which space program was able to pull ahead in the long run. That would be the United States. After a quick start, the Russian space program ran into a great deal of trouble. After trading a relatively even number of orbital flights, NASA was able to land several successful mission on the lunar surface.The third way to evaluate who won the space race is by which agencies learned to work together. In that case NASA and the Russian space agency made great strides. Their cooperation began during the Apollo 11 mission. Russia had a lunar probe in orbit at the same time as Apollo 11. The two agencies cooperated to prevent a crash that could have killed the Apollo astronauts. That cooperation continued with the Apollo-Soyuz mission, through the various space stations, and continues today.
No matter how you evaluate who won the space race, the end result is the same. All space agencies around the globe cooperate in order to gain the most knowledge possible. In the end, does it really matter who won?
If you’d like more info on the space race, check out these articles from The Space Race and NASA History.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Moon Exploration. Listen here, Episode 114: The Moon, Part 2: Exploration of the Moon.