Did Space Exploration Affect the Cold War?
The Cold War arose from the hostile relationship between the United States of America and the Soviet Union and existed from 1947 until 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Even if the period was relatively peaceful for both countries, it was a time when an arms race, space competition, and proxy wars took place to establish global dominance (Blakemore, 2019). Within these projects, space exploration came to be one of the most critical factors that defined the Cold War era.
According to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku (2009), the superpowers during the height of the space race spent incredible amounts of money to finance their space programs. He asserts that although the actual expenditures were deemed initially classified, the US alone was estimated to have spent $10,000 to put an object weighing one pound into space and a staggering $500-$700 M per the more recent shuttle mission. When the Soviets launched Sputnik into space in 1957, the race to the moon started with these countries building massive infrastructures to support their program. In 1964, both countries spent a combined $8.2-$10.2 B for their space programs (CIA, 4).
With the data on expenditures, space exploration clearly identified which superpower possessed enormous economic capacity. Science and technology alone were never enough to sustain the massive demand that the space race entailed. Though the Soviets first conquered space through their Sputnik program, the Americans stepped up by landing a man on the moon on July 20, 1969. It was only after the moon landing during the Apollo 11 mission that the space race stalled with the Soviets backing off due to massive budget constraints.
Space exploration between the US and the Soviet Union was indeed very crucial during the Cold War. Though the era was not confined only to the space race, it defined and showed the world which power was far superior in the fields of finance, science, and technology.
Blakemore, Erin. “What Was the Cold War?” National Geographic – Culture and History: Explainer, 22 Mar. 2019, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/topics/reference/cold-war/.
Comparison of US and Estimated Soviet Expenditures for Space Programs. Central Intelligence Agency, Aug. 1964, pp. 1–8, https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/DOC_0000316255.pdf.
Kaku, Michio. “The Cost of Space Exploration.” Forbes, 16 July 2009, https://www.forbes.com/2009/07/16/apollo-moon-landing-anniversary-opinions-contributors-cost-money.html#119a3a871d04.
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