Russian to Space

The Space Race between the US and the USSR was a critical moment of the 1950s and 1960s. The Soviets took lead in the competition with the successful launch of Sputnik 1.

Sputnik, Sputnik, Sputnik, Rocket
CCCP (USSR in Russian)

Part 1: Sputnik

Sputnik 1 launched from Kazakhstan on October 4, 1957. It was the first ever earth orbiting artificial satellite. This satellite was six times heavier (184 lbs) than the failed attempt of the United States in December 1957. The radio transmission Sputnik emitted was heard by ham radio operators around the world. The simple beeping marked a very important event in history.

Beep, Beep

Sputnik II launched into orbit a month later, on November 3, 1957. Even heavier, it weighed 1,120 pounds and contained the first living creature, a dog named “Laika”. Sputnik II was revolutionary. It was unlike anything ever seen before. Its design was adapted from Kuchatov’s work on ICBM’s (intercontinental ballistic missiles).

These Soviet achievements garnered immense prestige and attention. Not only were these successes crucial for nationalism and pride but they also marked significant military progress. As the Cold War continued, there began a correlation between the space technology that was sending satellites into orbit and the possibility of launching nuclear weapons onto targets in the United States. Furthermore, it opened the door for interplanetary exploration, showed the USSR to be a powerful nation, and gave the people hope.

The success of Sputnik paved the way for further space exploration.

Part 2: Cosmonaut

Vostok 1 launched on April 12, 1961. The first human in Space, Iurii Gagarin, completed a full orbit around Earth. With this, the Soviets successfully kept their edge in the Space Race, once again beating the US. Gagarin became a symbol for the Soviet People. He was seen and celebrated as a hero. Gagarin’s “Poyekhali!”/”Let’s go” at the moment of launch became a symbol for the start of human space flight.

Gagarin represented the successes of the Soviet’s educational system, leadership, technology, and military.

Amidst all of these space endeavor victories, the US is still considered by most to be the winner of the Space Race by having a man on the moon.

*This post earned a “Student’s Choice” award from the editorial team.

18 thoughts on “Russian to Space

  1. Cool post! I find space really interesting and you give a different perspective on the “space race” that people don’t really think about when thinking about the cold war. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Alicja, great post on the Space Race! I think your final observation that the US is considered the “winner” because they put a man on the moon is really smart – it makes me question why that’s the common assumption when the Soviet Union accomplished so many significant things first!


  3. Hey Alicja! First of all, your title is great, I really appreciate it. Secondly, once again your writing style is very easy to read. I liked that you placed all of the space race events in sequential order. It is very interesting that the claim at the end considers the US to be the winner of the space race. Do you think the USSR’s goal was to put a man on the moon, or was it solely to explore space and possible satellite technology?


    1. Thanks Annika! I think it was to explore space and satellite technology but putting a man on the moon is right up there with being a huge deal! I’m sure the USSR would have wanted to be the first in that as well.


  4. Alicja, I have always found the idea of sending satellites or people into space so fascinating, so I obviously loved your post! I do agree with your point about the possibility of launching nuclear weapons really fueled the desire to launch satellites into orbit. Since I find space so interesting, I can thank Gagarin for sparking the human space flight.


    1. I find it very interesting as well! There are so many things you can do with satellites, there’s is still so much to learn, even over 50 years later we’re using satellites to learn more about the world we live in.


  5. Great post!! All the materials and hyperlinks you included really added to the overall feel/warmth of this post. I loved the images of the cosmonauts in the second part of this blog. Is it true Russia first sent animals to space? I would love to learn more about that if it is actually true.


  6. This is a great post! It’s super accessible and I also like the way you put things in chronological order. It really helps you see how the Soviet space program developed and improved as time passed. The title’s funny too!


  7. Hey Alicja, I really liked this post. When i was a kid, I read a lot about space history. The launch of Sputnik and later Iurii Gagarin really set the pace for the race for space with the Soviets dominating the entire race until the end. It wasn’t until the lunar part of the space race that America caught up. Good job!


  8. Hooray! Someone finally wrote about space! I think people often forget that the Soviets may have lost the race to the Moon, but as the space race was getting started they were WAY ahead of the US. They had the first artificial satellite, first living thing in space, first man in space, first woman in space, first single-module space station, first multi-module space station, etc. This strong start was a lot of what got the US into the race, and you show that catalytic relationship here. Well done!


    1. Thanks for the read Daniel! They were ahead of the US in so many aspects of space, I’m not sure the US would have been able to get a man on the moon when they did without Soviet pressure and achievements.


  9. Growing up here in the United States we hear a lot about the success of the moon landing and the pressure of the space race between the USSR and USA. It’s refreshing to read and be educated on the successes of the Soviet Union because they were, in fact, incredibly successful at conducting space missions and developing space travel technology. I think it is also humbling to see how the USSR made slow, gradual progression as a payoff to the hard work they put into the endeavor. I wonder exactly what the Soviet people thought of this, I can imagine they were proud and excited. But I am curious what the average person said about space travel, did Russians ever have ambitions to land on the moon, or land somewhere further? Interesting food for thought considering the limitations we face today despite having rapidly more advanced technology.


    1. I’m sure they had ambitions. As you said there was gradual progress. They were always pushing the limit- they admitted sending Laika into space wasn’t thought through enough resulting in her death. They had ambitions too- sending animals and people into space were huge accomplishments. Nevertheless they overcame boundaries and had a lot of “firsts”.


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