Space program two United States

Article

October 19, 2021

The United States Space Program designates the US-run space exploration program, which includes the development and use of rockets, spacecraft, communication satellites, meteorological, spies, and interplanetary probes. It is among the existing space programs, the one with the largest budget in the world.

Motivation and program start

From the end of World War II, with the emergence of the USA as the greatest world power and the USSR as its rival, the political, diplomatic and military dispute between them quickly spread to all fields, including space exploration. Due to the Soviet Union's early successes in space, with the launch of the first satellite (Sputnik 1) and the first man in space (Yuri Gagarin), the US realized that it would have to increase its efforts and investments in this area if it did not want to be left behind. . The initial Soviet deeds caused even more perplexity in the US, as there was an opinion formed in the US that the USSR was an "agricultural country" and was "destroyed by war". In a famous speech in 1961, John F. Kennedy challenged, before the decade was out, "send men to the moon and return them to safety." In the famous Rice University speech his words were: We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard ("We decided to go to the moon. We decided to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are difficult"). Since then, the US has launched an ambitious manned space program that began with Project Mercury, which used a one-astronaut-capacity capsule to maneuver in Earth orbit, followed by Project Gemini with a capacity for two astronauts, and finally the Project Apollo, whose spacecraft was capable of carrying three astronauts and landing on the moon. This goal was achieved on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the lunar surface. Particularly important for the US was the acquisition of Wernher von Braun, one of the main German designers of the V-2, who actively participated in the US ballistic missile program and after the first steps of the US space program (including being the team leader who designed the Saturn V launcher).

Reasons for the initial delay

Much of the initial delay of the US space program can be attributed to a strategic mistake of investing initially in Vanguard launchers, which are more complex and less reliable than the Redstone launchers (based on the old German V-2s). This meant that the US launch capacity was 5 kg at the time the Sputnik 1, 84 kg but with a capacity of 500 kg, was newly launched by the Soviet Union. Even so, just four months after the launch of Sputnik 1, the US responded with its first satellite, Explorer I, on January 31, 1958, and shortly thereafter with Vanguard I, II and III.

Creation of NASA

With Germany's defeat in World War II, the US and USSR captured most of the engineers who worked on the development of the V-2 (see also Operation Paperclip). Soon the US would be launching its first Bumper rockets, based on the V-2s. In July 1958, created by then President Dwight Eisenhower, the US space agency, NASA, responsible for coordinating the entire US space exploration effort and administering the US space program. The US quickly sent several artificial satellites and probes to explore other planets. In 1959 the Explorer 6 was launched, which later served as a test target for the ASAT weapon (anti-satellite weapon, see: Space weapon). By the mid-1960s the US had launched so many weather, communications satellites.

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