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Moons of our Solar System
Moons of our Solar System

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2 Race to the Moon

Learn about the space race, and one of the iconic moments in history when humankind first stood on the Moon. See what it was like to walk on the Moon and some experiments the astronauts undertook, like the ‘hammer and feather'.

Listen to the story of the Space Race, part of the Cold War, in which the two most powerful nations on Earth battled for supremacy in sending a manned mission to the Moon – and in those days the term used was ‘manned’ though these days we would say ‘crewed’.

There was genuinely a race, starting with the earliest Soviet success, Sputnik, that orbited the Earth in 1957. Soviet dominance of the early Space Race in the late 1950s and early 1960s included launching the first man, Yuri Gagarin, into space in 1961. The USA reaction included establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and President Kennedy’s famous speech setting out the aim of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth (and yes it was specifically a man) by the end of the decade.

The Space Race continued apace for the rest of the decade and even in the final few days, spacecraft from both nations were in the race to the Moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin fulfilled Kennedy’s promise and landed on the Moon on 20 July 1969. (The Soviet Luna 15, referred to near the end of the video, was an uncrewed mission. It attempted to land on 21 July after completing 52 orbits of the Moon, but contact was lost 3 km before it reached the surface.)

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