*Heritage Social Studies 8: American History 2*

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Heritage Social Studies

This homeschooling course is a continuation of American History 1, reviewing the Civil War and Westward Expansion, progressing into modern history. American History 2 explores issues that occur when a country is a world leader. Highlighting many of the key events of the 20th Century such as the World Wars, The Great Depression and The Cold War through the Bush Presidency and 9/11, this course examines American actions and the consequences that are still affecting us today.

My Courses
1: *Discovering God's Creation Science 9-12: Biology*
2: *Discovering God's Creation Science 9-12: Forensics-Crime Scene Investigation*
3: *Heritage Social Studies 8: American History 2*
4: *Heritage Social Studies 9-12: American Government*
5: *Jubilee English 1: Phenomenal Phonics*
6: *Living Word Bible 3: Life of Christ*
7: *Victory Math 2: From Training to Triumph*

:::The Space Race:::          

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced, before a special joint session of Congress, the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. A number of political factors affected Kennedy's decision and the timing of it. In general, Kennedy felt great pressure to have the United States "catch up to and overtake" the Soviet Union in the "space race." Four years after the Sputnik shock of 1957, the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin had become the first human in space on April 12, 1961, greatly embarrassing the U.S. While Alan Shepard became the first American in space on May 5 of the same year, he only flew on a short suborbital flight instead of orbiting the Earth, as Gagarin had done. Kennedy wanted to announce a program that the U.S. had a strong chance at achieving before the Soviet Union. After consulting with Vice President Lyndon Johnson, NASA Administrator James Webb, and other officials, he concluded that landing an American on the Moon would be a very challenging technological feat, but an area of space exploration in which the U.S. actually had a potential lead. The decision involved much consideration before making it public, as well as enormous human efforts and expenditures to make what became Project Apollo a reality by 1969. 

The Space Race

The Space Race was an informal competition between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted roughly from 1957 to 1975. It involved the parallel efforts by each of those countries to explore outer space with artificial satellites, to send humans into space, and to land people on the Moon. The Space Race became an important part of the cultural, technological, and ideological rivalry between the USSR and the United States during the Cold War. Space technology became a particularly important arena in this conflict, both because of its potential military applications and due to the morale-boosting psychological benefits.

The Space Race and the Cold War

After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union became locked in a bitter Cold War of espionage and propaganda. Space exploration and satellite technology could feed into the Cold War on both fronts. Satellite-borne equipment could spy on other countries, while space-faring accomplishments could serve as propaganda to tout a country's scientific prowess and military potential. The same rockets that might send a human into orbit or hit a specific spot on the Moon could send an atom bomb to a specific enemy city. Much of the technological development required for space travel applied equally well to wartime rockets such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Along with other aspects of the arms race, progress in space appeared as an indicator of technological and economic capacity, demonstrating the superiority of the ideology of that country. Space research had a dual purpose: it could serve peaceful ends, but could also contribute to military goals. 

The two superpowers each worked to gain an edge in space research, neither knowing who might make a breakthrough first. They had each laid the groundwork for a race to space, and awaited only the starter's gun. 


Sputnik 1 was the size of a large beach ball and weighed more than 80 kg and orbited the Earth for more than two months.  On October 4, 1957, the USSR successfully launched Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite to orbit the Earth, and the Space Race began.  Because of its military and economic implications, Sputnik caused fear and stirred political debate in the United States. At the same time, the Sputnik launch was seen in the Soviet Union as an important sign of scientific and engineering capabilities of the nation.

In the Soviet Union, the launch of Sputnik and the following program of space exploration was met with great interest from the public. Because the country recently recovered from devastating war it was important and encouraging to see the proof of technical prowess in the new era.

Before Sputnik, the average American assumed that the U.S. had superiority in all fields of technology. In response to Sputnik, the U.S. would launch a huge effort to regain technological supremacy, including revamping the school curricula in the hope of producing more engineers and scientists. This reaction is nowadays known as the "Sputnik crisis".

Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President to President John F. Kennedy, expressed the motivation for these American efforts as follows:

"In the eyes of the world, first in space means first, period; second in space is second in everything."

The American public, initially discouraged and frightened by Sputnik, became captivated by the American projects which followed. Schoolchildren followed the succession of launches, and building replicas of rockets became a popular hobby.  President John F. Kennedy gave speeches encouraging people to support the space program and trying to overcome the skepticism of many who felt the millions of dollars would be better used to build stocks of proven, existing armaments, or to fight poverty. 

Humans in Space

The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space when he entered orbit in the USSR's Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961, a day now celebrated as a holiday in Russia and in many other countries. 23 days later, on mission Freedom 7, Alan Shepard first entered sub-orbital space for the U.S. John Glenn, in Friendship 7, became the first American to successfully orbit Earth, completing three orbits on February 20, 1962.

The first dual-manned flight also originated in the USSR, August 11-15, 1962. Soviet Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space on June 16, 1963, in Vostok 6. Initially the Soviet engineers scheduled further Vostok missions of longer duration, but following the U.S.'s announcement of the Apollo Program, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev demanded more firsts. The first flight with more than one crew member, the USSR's Voskhod 1, a modified version of the Vostok craft, took off on October 12, 1964, carrying Vladimir Komarov, Konstanin Feoktistov and Boris Yegorov onboard. This flight also marked the first occasion on which a crew did not wear spacesuits.

Project Apollo

Partly motivated by geopolitical considerations, Project Apollo was a series of human spaceflight missions undertaken by the United States of America (NASA) using the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn launch vehicle, conducted during the years 1961-1975. It was devoted to the goal of (in Kennedy's famous words) "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth" within the decade of the 1960s. This goal was achieved with the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969.

The program continued into the early 1970s to carry out the initial hands-on scientific exploration of the Moon, with a total of six successful landings. As of 2006, there has not been any further human spaceflight beyond low earth orbit. The later Skylab program and the joint American-Soviet Apollo-Soyuz Test Project used equipment originally produced for Apollo, and are often considered to be part of the overall program.

Despite the successes, there were several major failures, most notably the deaths of astronauts Virgil Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee in the Apollo 1 launchpad fire, the explosion on Apollo 13 which nearly killed three more astronauts, and a release of poisonous gases during re-entry of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project spacecraft that nearly killed three more again.

The Apollo Program was originally conceived late in the Eisenhower administration as a follow-on to the Mercury program, doing advanced manned earth-orbital missions. In fact, it became the third program, following Project Gemini, in which the objective was to develop techniques for advanced space travel. The Apollo Program was dramatically reoriented to an aggressive lunar landing goal by President Kennedy with his announcement at a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: 

"...I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish..."

"I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year."

 "This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful inter-agency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel." 

"New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further--unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space."

Apollo 11 Gets There First

While unmanned Soviet probes did reach the moon before any U.S. craft, American Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the lunar surface, after landing on July 20, 1969.

Apollo 11 was the first manned mission to land on the Moon. It was the fifth human spaceflight of the Apollo program, and the third human voyage to the moon. Launched on July 16, 1969, it carried Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin. Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to land on the Moon, while Collins orbited above. 

The mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy's goal. In addition to one million people crowding the highways and beaches near the launch site, an estimated audience of over 600 million people viewed the event on television; a new record at that time. President Nixon viewed the proceedings from the Oval Office of the White House. 

Social commentators widely recognize the lunar landing as one of the defining moments of the 20th century, and Armstrong's words on his first stepping onto the moon's surface became similarly memorable:

"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

As news of the Soviet accomplishment of launching Sputnik into orbit quickly spread by radio and television reports, untold millions climbed onto rooftops, ventured into city parks, or ambled out to dark backyards, all scanning the heavens for a brief glimpse of a rapidly moving star. It was a communal experience that would later become known simply as "Sputnik Night."

"There are risks and costs to a program of action.  But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction." 

-John F. Kennedy

It has long been assumed that Armstrong mistakenly omitted the word "a" from his famous remark, rendering the phrase redundant. Armstrong thought he had said it and claimed he did indeed say it. A digital audio analysis conducted by Peter Shann Ford, suggests Armstrong did, in fact, say "a man", but the "a" was inaudible due to static noise and the limitations of communications technology of the time.


Click here to hear a sound recording of the Sputnik radio signal.  


John F. Kennedy's Announcement to Congress

Space Race Timeline-Please click INTERACTIVE

1957 First Satellite in Space: Sputnik    

View photos and listen to audio clips from the Apollo 11 mission

Click on the image to visit the Space Race exhibit.




Answer the following questions in the box below:

Imagine that you were an American citizen living during the Cold War period.  How would you react to the launch of Sputnik?  How would you feel about Kennedy's ambitious plan to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade?  What would be your reaction to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon? 

Explain your answer using at least 7 complete sentences with accurate spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Interact with the lesson reading, use examples to support your statements, and be sure to answer all parts to each question. Please be sure to use complete thoughts that are your own.

Provide appropriate answers. The following are examples of inappropriate work:

1) "I agree with..."

2) "No comment."

3) Copying and pasting from the lesson, a web site, or another student.

4) Submitting a blank response.

When you have completed your work, click on the "add comment" button at the bottom of the page to turn in your assignment.

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