Tracking the Space Race
Starting in the late 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a political, technological, and economic race to see which superpower could claim mastery over the cosmos. The Space Race was a back-and-forth battle, with each side notching successive achievements starting with the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and culminating in the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969. In December, ninth graders in Topics in Modern America (TMA) explored the Space Race and its connection to the Cold War and the political trajectory of the United States. Each student was assigned one of the 54 missions flown by the United States or the Soviet Union between 1957 and 1990 to profile in poster format. Displayed chronologically, the posters will create a timeline of the Space Race in the Upper School hallway.
Before creating their poster, TMA students researched the basics of their assigned mission: the title, date, intent, take-off, splashdown locations, and the astronauts and cosmonauts involved. However, they also needed to understand the mission within the context of the larger space race. Students needed to understand how their mission formed a response to or spurred developments from the other side, the successes and failures that marked the mission, and its historical impact. Using Adobe Express or Canva, TMA students laid out their information on an 11 x 17 sheet in the style of a traditional NASA mission poster. Each poster was required to include an explanation of the mission and its context and at least four images, such as the spacecraft, crew, official mission logo, or a famous image from the mission. When the final timeline is on display, History Department Chair John Beloff expects it will convey the breadth of the Space Race in an impressive fashion. “We didn’t want to look at this just from the American or the Soviet perspective. We wanted to show the scope of the space race and how many missions there really were.”