Space Race

Soon after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union became locked in a global conflict pitting democracy against communism. Space became a critical theater in this Cold War, as each side competed to best the other's achievements in what became known as the Space Race.

This gallery tells about that U.S.-Soviet space rivalry and its aftermath, from the military origins of the Space Race, through the race to the Moon and the development of reconnaissance satellites, to cooperative ventures between the two former rivals and efforts to maintain a human presence in space. Some of the many highlights include a German V-1 "buzz bomb" and V 2 missile, Soviet and U.S. spacecraft and space suits, a Skylab Orbital Workshop, and a full-size test version of the Hubble Space Telescope.


Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
In July 1975 two manned spacecraft were launched into Earth orbit--one from Kazakstan, the other from Florida. Their rendezvous in orbit fulfilled a 1972 agreement between the Soviet Union and the United States to participate in a joint venture in space.

Soyuz TM-10

Soyuz TM-10

In this landing module, cosmonauts Gennadi Manakov and Gennadi Strekalov returned to Earth in December 1990 after a four-month stay on space station Mir. With them was Japanese journalist Toyohiro Akiyama, who had arrived with the new Mir crew on Soyuz TM-11.

The spacecraft is heavily charred from the heat of reentry. Returning cosmonauts customarily autograph their spacecraft after a successful recovery. Their chalk signatures and thank-you's are still visible. Interior control panels and the cosmonauts' seats can be seen through the portholes.
Lent by The Perot Foundation

Merkur Capsule

TKS Manned Spacecraft
This Transportnyi Korabl' Snabzheniia, TKS (Transport Supply Spacecraft) spacecraft was launched as part of an experimental military space station module, Kosmos 1443, in March 1983. The complex docked with the Salyut 7 space station, and the TKS returned five months later.

The spacecraft is fitted with seats for three cosmonauts, but it never had a crew. It was intended to ferry cosmonauts, supplies, and equipment into orbit, but the TKS and military space station programs were terminated in favor of another program.
Lent by The Perot Foundation

M2-F3 Lifting Body

M2-F3 Lifting BSody
The M2-F3 lifting body test vehicle completed 27 flights from 1967 through 1972. Early flights were unpowered; on later flights it was boosted to high altitude by a rocket engine. The actual craft is suspended overhead in the gallery.
Transferred from NASA

More Information: M2-F3 Lifting Body

Hubble Test Telescope

Hubble Test Telescope
The test telescope was used for a variety of tests, such as handling equipment and procedures checkout, as shown here. It was also subjected to the same noise and vibration (structural dynamics) that the flight telescope would experience during launch, as well as the extreme temperatures to be encountered in space. Technicians used it as a testbed to lay out wiring harnesses and evaluate features that would enable the telescope to be repaired in orbit.

Before the first servicing mission in late 1993, the crew practiced some of the repair tasks using the test vehicle on display in the Museum. Since then it has been refurbished to depict the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

More Information: Hubble Test Telescope  


Soon after the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, images and data from its instruments revealed that its main mirror was optically flawed. To correct this, engineers created an optical box called COSTAR (Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement). It contained a set of five pairs of small mirrors on deployable arms that corrected the light beams entering the Hubble's Faint Object Camera, Faint Object Spectrograph, and Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph. Fitted within a standard axial instrument enclosure, the small mirrors would deploy after launch and checkout, enter the reflected optical beam from the main mirror, and counteract its flaw, sending the corrected light to the other instruments.


Wide-Field/Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC 2)
In addition to COSTAR, the engineering and science team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory adjusted the optics within a replacement Wide-Field/Planetary Camera and deployed it to compensate for the aberration in Hubble's primary mirror.

V-1 "Buzz Bomb" Hanging in Space Hall

V-1 Cruise Missile
The German V-1, introduced in combat in June 1944, was the world's first operational cruise missile. Thousands of pulse-jet powered V-1s, also known as "buzz bombs," were launched against Europe. V-1s were slow and inaccurate; they could be intercepted and shot down.
Transferred from the U.S. Air Force


V-2 Missile
This V-2 missile was reconstructed by the U.S. Air Force using components from several missiles and was exhibited at the Air Force Technical Museum in Park Ridge, Illinois. The Smithsonian received it from the Air Force in 1954. Technicians spent more than 2,000 hours restoring it to its present appearance, which is patterned after the first successful test missile fired from Peenemünde in October 1942. These markings made the missile easily visible for accurate assessment of its flight performance. The irregular surface of the missile reflects the condition of the original skin.
Transferred from the U.S. Air Force

More Information: V-2 Missile

WAC Corporal Missile

WAC Corporal Rocket
The WAC Corporal was a small liquid- propellant sounding rocket, developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for the U.S. Army. It used an attached solid-propellant booster to clear the launch tower. The first WAC was launched at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico, in October 1945. It reached an altitude of about 75 kilometers (45 miles). Improved versions of the rocket reached 100 kilometers (60 miles).
Donated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology

More Information: WAC Corporal Rocket

Minuteman ballistic missile guidance system

Minuteman Guidance System
The military has been the main underwriter of research in the computing field. The Air Force's Minuteman Project, a guided missile designed to carry nuclear weapons, was the first to use large numbers of integrated circuits. Techniques developed for the Minuteman's guidance system led to the mass manufacture of chips and indirectly to today's inexpensive computing power.
From Rockwell International

More Information: Minuteman Guidance System

Skylab Orbital Workshop

Skylab Orbital Workshop
This is the backup Skylab orbital workshop, the largest component of America's first space station. It was not used in space because the Skylab program was canceled after one space station as effort shifted to space shuttle development.

Skylab crews lived and did most of their scientific research in the workshop. The outer surface includes a gold coating to reflect the Sun's heat and help control interior temperature. Under the workshop are 23 spherical containers for gaseous nitrogen used in the thrust attitude control system and pneumatics. A radiator for the life-support systems, refrigerators, and freezers is mounted below the spheres. Transferred from NASA and McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Company

More Information: Skylab Orbital Workshop

Viking missile
The Viking on display in this exhibition is a full-size model made with portions of a real airframe; it is typical of Viking #8 and later versions. It was built by Viking's prime manufacturer, the Glen L. Martin Company of Baltimore. The visible internal components consist of both real objects and mock-ups. The model was donated to the Smithsonian in 1975, after the company installed an original XLR-10 Viking engine from the Museum's collection.
Gift of the Glen L. Martin Company

Jupiter-C rocket
The Jupiter-C launched America's first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958. Designed by the von Braun team and built by the Army, the Jupiter-C was a modified Redstone ballistic missile with three added stages. Its liquid-propellant main-stage engine derived from the Navaho missile program. The upper stages used solid propellants.

The Jupiter-C displayed in the Museum is a full-scale model with a replica of Explorer 1 on top.
Transferred from the U.S. Army

Vanguard rocket
Vanguard was a three-stage launch vehicle developed for the Navy in 1957. It had liquid-propellant engines in the first two stages and a solid-propellant third stage. Vanguard's technical ancestors were the Navy's Viking and Aerobee sounding rockets. Much of the internal hardware was removed when this Vanguard was prepared for display. It was transferred to the Smithsonian in 1958 after being exhibited at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
Transferred from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Aerobee 150 rocket
The Aerobee 150 was refined from an earlier version, Aerobee-Hi, and first flown in 1955. It had a liquid-propellant main stage atop a solid-propellant booster and was about twice the size of a WAC Corporal. It could deliver a 68-kilogram (150-pound) payload to an altitude of 275 kilometers (170 miles).

This Aerobee 150 was reconstructed from parts transferred from the Naval Ordnance Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range and from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Scout-D rocket
This launch vehicle is a Scout-D, which had a more powerful first-stage motor that was introduced in 1972. This Scout-D was transferred to the Museum from NASA's Wallops Island launch facility in 1975. Its payload is the backup for the INJUN/Air Density Explorer (Explorer 40) satellite launched in 1968.
Transferred from NASA

Minuteman III missile
The silo-based, three-stage Minuteman missile became this country's standard ICBM. Unlike the first ICBMs, which used liquid propellants and were time-consuming to prepare for launch, the Minuteman was a solid-propellant missile ready for instant response.

Minuteman I was deployed in missile fields in the western and midwestern United States beginning in 1962. Each missile carried a single nuclear warhead. The original Minuteman was superseded by improved Minuteman II and Minuteman III missiles. Minuteman III could carry three independently targeted nuclear warheads. Some 550 Minuteman IIIs were deployed in the United States beginning in 1970.

Tomahawk cruise missile
In the mid-1950s, unpiloted long-range flying bombs still suffered from insufficient range and accuracy, and they remained easy to shoot down. By the 1970s, with miniaturization of propulsion, electronics, and guidance systems, combined with detailed terrain maps from reconnaissance satellites, the cruise missile became a practical vehicle for conventional or nuclear weapons. Cruise missiles can be launched from ships, aircraft, or the ground.

The Navy's Tomahawk cruise missile on display in the exhibition was introduced in 1982. It was used extensively in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Gift of General Dynamics