The Space Race. Most know of this infamous competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that began in 1955 and ensued throughout the 60’s. In essence, the race was a show of technological advancement and superiority between the two nations. The Soviet Union beat the U.S into space with the launch of Sputnik 1 in October of 1957, as well as putting the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin ,in April of 1961.
But in July 1969 the U.S accomplished the single greatest technological feat in the history of mankind by putting a man on the moon. The Soviet Union had tried but failed to accomplish a manned lunar mission and ultimately scrapped all attempts to reach the moon and focused on Earth orbital space stations.
This is what we know about the space race. But there’s actually more…
On May 5th 1971 the Soviet Union launched its first of three orbiters and landers at our neighbor Mars. Mars 1 was supposed to relay info back to the other two orbiters in order to guide them to the red planet for a safe landing. However, the rocket failed upon launch so on May 19th and 28th Mars 2 and Mars 3, respectively, were launched.
On November 21st of the same year Mars 2 was having some guidance control issues and crashed into the surface; thereby marking it in history as the first manmade object to hit the planet. Just a few days later, on December 2nd Mars 3 landed and relayed the first transmissions humans had ever witnessed from the fourth planet from our sun. The transmission contained intel on the soil density, atmosphere, as well as the topographical surface of which it landed. The transmissions lasted all of 14.5 seconds before Mars 3 lost power and was never heard from again.
The missions were met with some bad luck along the way and Mars 3 happened to land during one of the largest sand storms ever recorded, which is believed to be the cause of the black out. But neither the lack of desired data nor the amount of time in which the lander operated diminishes the accomplishment of the Mars 3. It was the first manmade object to send data from the surface of a different planet.
But the question remains- from what nation will the first man or woman originate, who will take the first steps on Mars? Yet when those brave souls look back among the stars towards the tiny planet they call home- I don’t suppose it will matter.