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Space Race Logo

An Exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum

Saturn V and N-1
SI#: 97-15884-11

The Space Race grew out of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the most powerful nations after World War II. For a half-century, the two superpowers competed for primacy in a global struggle pitting a democratic society against totalitarian communism.

Space was a crucial arena for this rivalry. Before a watchful world, each side sought to demonstrate its superiority through impressive feats in rocketry and spaceflight. Secret satellites kept a wary eye on the adversary.

At the end of the Cold War, the United States and Russia agreed to build a space station and pursue other joint ventures in space. A contest that began in fear and enmity has become a partnership.

What makes the Soviet threat unique in history is its all-inclusiveness. Every human activity is pressed into service as a weapon of expansion. Trade, economic development, military power, arts, science, education, the whole world of ideas.... The Soviets are, in short, waging total cold war.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1958

Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere....

President John F. Kennedy, 1961

We have a long way to go in the space race. We started late. But this is the new ocean, and I believe the United States must sail on it and be in a position second to none.

President John F. Kennedy, 1962

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© 2002 National Air and Space Museum

NASM Exhibitions