The Space Age:

A History, and Analysis of its Effects on American Foreign Policy During the Cold War

Apollo 11

Who's Who: Pioneering Scientists and Cold Warriors

Early Rockets and Spacecraft

American Space Program

The Space Program and American Foreign Policy

Space and the United Nations

Works Cited


In 2001, a congressional commission stated, "We are now on the threshold of a new era of the space age, devoted to mastering operations in space." In the 21st century, the United States ought to pursue "new military capabilities for operation to, from, in and through space.” At this turning point, it is interesting to look back over sixty years and ask, How did the space age begin?

At the turn of the last century scientists, mathematicians, and novelists dreamed and planned for human exploration of space. Rockets had been used in warfare since shortly after the invention of gunpowder, but it was not until the late 19th century that other fuels, such as kerosene or liquid hydrogen, were ever thought of for use in spaceship design. It was during World War II that rocket technology took off as each side sought to build the most destructive missile. Indeed, in 1943 when Germany’s top engineers presented Adolf Hitler with the A-4, which had a one-ton warload, he asked if it could be raised to ten tons. “What I want is annihilation – an annihilating effect!” he said after his engineers admitted that it would take several more years to build a larger rocket.

As we enter an age in which the United States plans to retire what is left of its space shuttle fleet, the New Horizons probe heads toward the now “dwarf planet" Pluto, and when commercial satellites are at the center of a $251-billion-a-year industry, let us consider the space programs of the Cold War era. Where did this magnificent technology come from? Who were the architects and engineers of both spaceships and ideology? How did the advent of the space age affect American foreign policy? And who “won” the space race?