space race easy

The Space Race



space compete mankind
launch explore artificial
orbit massive order (2)
vow manned follow up
catch catch up achievement
follow funding spacecraft
leap respond cosmonaut
flight land (2) spaceship
sub- capsule chimpanzee
lunar module proclaim
publish process accurate
vehicle set foot rendezvous
remain against headway
melt intense attendee





The Space Race

From the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s, the Soviet Union and the United States competed with each other in a “space race”. In the process, they made great scientific and technological achievements.

The Soviet Space Program

The race began on 4 October 1957 when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to orbit the earth.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered massive funding for follow-up projects while American leaders vowed to catch up.

Sputnik 2

A month after Sputnik, another satellite, Sputnik 2, carried the first “cosmonaut”, a dog named Laika, into space.

In 1959 Luna 2 became the first spacecraft to land on the moon.

Yuri Gagarin

The first manned space flight was made in 12 April 1961, when Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in the spaceship Vostok I. Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in Vostok IV in 1963.


The United States responded in 1958 by launching the rocket Explorer 1. Then a chimpanzee named Ham made a flight in a capsule in 1961. The US made its first manned flight in 1961, when astronaut Alan Shepard made a suborbital flight. In 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth.

“One Small Step”

Then on 20 July, 1969, US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Apollo 11 lunar module on the moon. Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the moon, and said, “That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind”.

US astronauts made five more moon landings before the Apollo lunar program ended in 1972.

The British Interplanetary Society

In the 1940’s, the British Interplanetary Society published detailed plans for manned lunar landing vehicles, space suits, and orbital rendezvous.

However, the British, who had been a very strong scientific and industrial power before World War II, made little headway.

All the best British scientists and engineers had gone to the United States. Those who remained had very little money and support to develop a British space program.

A Party in New York City

In 1969 New York City hosted a big party to celebrate the first landing on the moon. A British politician attending the party decided to make a speech.

He proclaimed, “The Russians were the first to go into space. The Americans were the first to land on the Moon. However the British . . . will be the first to go to the SUN! Yes, we are planning to land a man on the Sun!

A Trip to the Sun

There was silence in the audience. Then a Russian engineer asked, “What will you do about the intense heat and light? Have you developed new materials that won’t be burned or melted by the sun?” An American scientist added, “And what about the sun’s radiation? How will you protect the astronauts against it?”

The British politician laughed. “Haha. Do you think the British are stupid? We will go at night.”

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1. The Soviet Union and United States engaged in a space race. Why did they engage in a space race?

2. What was Sputnik?

3. Who were the first to travel in space?

4. Was the US the first to send a rocket to the moon?

5. What was the famous saying on space travel?

6. The British couldn’t develop a space program because they were not smart enough. What do you think?

7. What happened at the party?
A. Have there been astronauts from your country? If yes, who are/were they?

B. The theme of space and space travel is very common in popular culture. Yes nor no? Give examples.

C. Is space travel and exploration worth government investment? Should governments invest in space exploration?

D. Would you like to be an astronaut/cosmonaut or space tourist?

E. What will happen in the future?

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