Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Man in Space



I'm going to skip right over the news that today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War. In my lifetime, another event which took place on this date had as far reaching consequences. Fifty years ago today, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the earth.

Gagarin's mission began the "Space Race", the competition between the US and Soviet Union to achieve supremacy in space exploration. American pride was rattled when the USSR was the first to send a man in space. Believing that American technology lagged behind the Soviets, for the only time in my lifetime, national political leaders championed education, especially in engineering and the sciences, and backed it with virtually unlimited resources.

In a mostly face saving endeavor, the US hastily launched Alan Shepard in the suborbital Mercury 7 mission on May 5th. By the end of May 1961, President Kennedy in a joint session of Congress, laid out his goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade. An American finally orbited earth in February 1962.

The results of the race were practical and wide ranging.


Photos of earth from space bred the environmental movement. The semiconductor, telecommunications, and computer industry were major recipients of space race funding.

Latex paint, no fog goggles, synthetic fibers all began as space projects.

And who could forget Tang?



American interest in science education dried up not long after the last manned lunar mission. Money that once went to education was diverted to funding the war in Viet Nam. We've found more wars ever since.

Toad

8 comments:

Design said...

LOL! Tang was like my all time favorite! Can't believe this post. by the way, thank you!

T said...

I always thought it would be interesting to see an American-produced film about Gagarin based on his, rather than the Russian, perspective.

Atlanta Roofing said...

It is not yet obvious that there are things we can do in space better by sending people up there than by sending up only our machines. So far, the only thing that human spaceflight is uniquely capable of doing is demonstrating the possibilities of human spaceflight. But there is sufficient interest, and thus sufficient political and economic support, that we will continue to send up modest numbers of space travellers in Yuri Gagarin's footsteps. Over time we may find new reasons to send up people in more than modest numbers.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Toad. Nice blog and a great post, great to acknowledge Gagarin on that day… He is a hero. “I see Earth. It is so beautiful”, reportedly said Gagarin. By the way, talking about Earthy matters like successful trading, here is a great site on Turtle Trading Systems. Check it out, and learn more. Best of luck trading.
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prasad said...

Russia faced so many difficulties to reach this position. If Russia didn't split in different countries no doubt it is the world's most powerful country. Russia come to this position with their (own) men power but America come to its position with different countries people effort so Russia is the greatest country like India.

Toad said...

Prasad, I believe the USSR and the US space programs each owe a great debt to the German engineers & scientists picked up along the way towards the end of WW2.

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