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Racing to the Moon

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Military Origins
Racing to the Moon
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The Race Begins
Competitors in the Race
Vostok and Voskhod
Mercury and Gemini
Space Suits
A Soviet Moonshot?
Apollo Lunar Suit
The Moon Rocket Challenge
The Moon Race Ends


"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...will be more exciting, or more impressive to mankind, or more important...and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish...."

 President John F. Kennedy, 1961

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

 U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong, on the Moon, 1969

Aldrin on Moon
47 k jpeg
NASA#: 69-HC-684
Neil Armstrong took this picture of
Buzz Aldrin on the Moon
during Apollo 11 mission.

At the start, there were no set rules for the Space Race. What was the goal? What would count as winning?

For Americans, President Kennedy's declaration focused the Space Race on a clear goal: landing a man on the Moon before the Soviets. The Space Race became a race to the Moon.

For years, the Soviets officially denied being in a race to the Moon. Now there is ample evidence, including items displayed here, that they indeed competed to reach the Moon first.

View of Section 300
SI#: 97-17207



The Space Race became a symbol of the broad ideological and political contest between two rival world powers. The way the two competitors organized to achieve their goals in space highlighted their basic differences.

The United States had separate civilian and military agencies, and only the military space programs were secret. Civilian space activities--especially the race to the Moon--were openly publicized for the world to see.

In the Soviet Union, all space programs were integrated into a secretive military-industrial bureaucracy. Launches were not announced in advance, and only the successes were publicized.

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