The space race was one of the most historic events of the twentieth century and played a significant role in the outcome of the Cold War. However, few people are aware of the facts surrounding this unique event in humankind’s history and their knowledge mostly revolves around the first man on the moon and the subsequent moon landing conspiracy theories. Here are 25 facts about the space race that will enlighten and intrigue you at the same time. So buckle your seat belts and get ready to take a trip to the stars.
20. Despite most people being familiar almost exclusively with Sputnik and Apollo, another spacecraft was the first to reach the moon’s immediate orbit, and the first to be placed in heliocentric orbit. Its name was Luna 1 and it was launched as part of the Soviet Luna program in 1959, becoming the first spacecraft to leave geocentric orbit.
15. The legendary Mercury Seven was a group of seven astronauts selected to pilot the manned spaceflights of the Mercury program from May 1961 to May 1963. These seven American astronauts were Gus Grissom, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Wally Schirra, Gordon Cooper, Deke Slayton, and Alan Shepard, who became the first American in space almost three weeks after Yuri Gagarin. Fun fact: The main character of the Mass Effect series, Commander Shepard, is named after this Shepard.
10. Way before Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the Soviet Luna 9 had become the first spacecraft to soft-land there in 1966. A few months later Luna 10 would become the first satellite to orbit the moon.
5. At age 47 Alan Shepard commanded the Apollo 14 mission, piloting the lander to the most accurate landing of the Apollo missions. He became the fifth and oldest person to walk on the moon, and the only astronaut of the Mercury Seven to walk on the moon. He also becameâ€”believe it or notâ€”the first man in history to play sports on the moon; he hit two golf balls, driving the second, as he jokingly put it, “miles and miles and miles.”
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