“There’s a common misconception about the 1960’s Space Race: that it was another arena in which the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union played out, pitting two countries against each other in a bitter race to outer space. This is only partially true, the competition wasn’t bitter, and Sputnik didn’t come out of nowhere,” said Mai’a Cross, Associate Professor of Political Science & International Affairs, Northeastern University. The mid-20th century brought about a catch up race between the two superpowers of the world- the USA & USSR. After the USSR sent Yuri Gagarin to space, President Kennedy felt the need to step up the game for USA and so the mission of sending man to moon began.
Several projects followed- Project Mercury, that hosted Shepherd’s 15-minute flight to become NASA’s first human spaceflight program along with six other crewed missions; Project Gemini- which was a series of two-man space flights gave answers to the questions, including the harmful effects of space on the human body; Project Apollo helped in solving aspects of functionality and design of space modules and their working. These projects were followed by the selection of suitable military test pilots. The potential astronauts underwent subjection to extreme conditions in order to test their mental and physical endurance.
Meanwhile, the Soviets continued to achieve feats, and sent Valentina Tereshkova to space, making her the first female to do so. The Americans continued to go forward with the technicalities of their mission and finally in May, 1969, the Apollo 10 mission took off as a full dress rehearsal for the moon landing and ultimately on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first men to step on any celestial body apart from Earth.