The Race to the Moon
When World War II had ended, the young Soviet engineer Sergei P. Korolev, along with Vladimir Glushko were sent to Germany to study what bits of the V2 program the Americans had left them. It was not much, but there was enough for the Soviets to start a rocket-testing program of their own. In 1946 at the Kupustin Yar range several rockets were tested, but with no real success. No real progress was made until after Stalins death in 1953.
When Korolev heard of the Americans plans to launch a satellite during the year of International Geophysics, he suggested that the Soviets should do the same. Korolev knew that his R-7 rocket was capable of carrying a load of up to 4,400 pounds, more than enough to carry a small satellite. On October 4 1957 Sputnik I weighing just over 194 pounds was launched. A month later Sputnik II was launched, it carried a payload of 1,100 pounds. It also carried the first living creature into space, Laika the dog.
The Americans where not at all happy about the Soviet space activity and saw it as an insult to their national pride. Millions of dollars were poured into keeping up with the Soviets. The space race had begun.
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