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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


Only a month after its "October surprise," the Soviet Union launched another satellite. Sputnik 2 was larger and carried a dog called Laika. Sputnik 2 demonstrated a growing Soviet advantage in launching heavy payloads and hinted that the Soviets might soon put a human in space.

From 1958 through 1961, six more Earth-orbiting Sputniks were successfully launched by the U.S.S.R., all much larger than the first. These missions also improved reentry and recovery techniques for a human flight.

Courtesy of Art Dula

Sputnik 2
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A card accompanied Sputnik 5, which carried the dogs Belka and Strelka into space in August 1960 on the Soviets' first successful capsule recovery mission. In case the capsule landed outside the recovery zone, the card and related instructions directed anyone finding it to contact local officials immediately. The finder was also asked not to open the capsule but to set it upright, and to leave it exactly where it had landed.

Courtesy of Emmet, Toni, and Tessa Stephenson

card and related instructions
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Images of Luna 3
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On October 4, 1959, exactly two years after the first Sputnik launch, the Soviet Union sent the first spacecraft around the Moon. Luna 3 recorded images of the Moon's far side and broadcast them to Earth. A month earlier, after five unsuccessful attempts, the Soviet Luna 2 spacecraft had hit the Moon.

Images Courtesy of RSC Energia

Images of Luna 3
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Image from 1959 Luna 3 photo book
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This is one of the first images of the far side of the Moon. It is reproduced from a book of Luna 3 images published in 1959 and presented by the Chief Designer of the Soviet space program, Sergei Korolëv, to his wife. Korolëv inscribed it "with good memories of the wonderful accomplishments of Soviet science."

Courtesy of The Perot Foundation

Title page inscribed by Korolëv
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