Who sent Yuri Gagarin to the moon

Background current

On July 21, 1969, the US astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon. Five decades later, alongside Russia and the United States, other countries and corporations are vying for supremacy in space.

Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. were the first people to walk on the moon in 1969. (& copy picture-alliance / AP, AP Photo)

On October 4, 1957, a Soviet ICBM successfully launched the first Sputnik1 satellite into orbit. In the midst of the arms race in the Cold War, the satellite launch of the Soviet Union (USSR) triggered a social and political earthquake in the western world: Up until this point, the West had been convinced of the technical superiority of the United States of America (USA). The so-called Sputnik shock called that into question. The Soviet Union celebrated its space travel success as a partial victory of socialism, and in the West there was growing fear that Soviet ICBMs would soon be able to target North America and Europe without any problems.

Sputnik shock leads to the founding of NASA

Many Washington Congressmen saw American security at risk. As a result, the US government decided to create a state agency in which the up to then civil space programs should be bundled: The space agency "National Aeronautics and Space Administration" (NASA) was on July 29, 1958 by the "National Aeronautics and Space Act "was founded under US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and officially began its work on October 1.

But in the race for supremacy in space, the Soviet Union initially continued to be ahead. In 1957 she shot the first living being into space with the dog Laika. Four years later, in 1961, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth once during the first manned space flight. The Soviet Union was also able to book the first unmanned mission to the moon in 1966. During the 1960s, however, the United States stepped up its efforts considerably.

Kennedy massively increases funds for space flights

By 1961, NASA's annual budget was less than a billion dollars, less than one percent of the US budget. However, this changed under US President John F. Kennedy. Just a few months after his inauguration, in May 1961, he announced that before the end of the decade, an American would set foot on the moon and safely return to earth. The aim was to increase America's reputation and to forestall the Soviet Union in the race to the moon.

In order to implement his announcement as quickly as possible, Kennedy launched the Apollo program and significantly increased NASA's budget. His successor Lyndon B. Johnson followed this line and increased spending on NASA to nearly six billion US dollars annually by 1966 - this was more than 4.4 percent of the total US budget. For comparison: In 2015, just under 0.5 percent of the US budget was estimated for NASA.

In addition to a safe landing and homecoming, the astronauts should, among other things, scientifically explore the moon and set up a television camera with which images should be sent back to Earth.

The first mission of the Apollo program failed in 1967 - one month before the scheduled start of Apollo 1, three astronauts died during a test by a fire in the space capsule. Many more Apollo missions and tests followed.

One small step for a person ...

On July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 finally started its 400,000-kilometer journey to the moon - on board the American astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin.

Despite a successful start, the moon landing almost ended in disaster: After the lunar module with the astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin on board had detached itself from the spaceship, the autopilot steered directly towards the edge of a large crater, where boulders made a landing too dangerous. Armstrong therefore switched to manual control: shortly before the fuel ran out, he managed to land the ferry safely on the surface of the moon. Six and a half hours later, on July 21, 1969 at 3:56 a.m. Central European Time, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the moon. His famous sentence "A small step for a person, but a big leap for mankind" was followed by over 500 million people around the world live on their television sets.

For the USA, the successful landing was the long-awaited success in the race to the moon. But precisely because the US was so anxious to beat the Soviet Union despite years of lag, numerous conspiracy theories claim that the US government merely faked the moon landing. On closer examination, however, the arguments of the various conspiracy theories can be scientifically refuted (see: Conspiracy Theories).

Stop of moon flights after six moon landings

After Apollo 11, five more manned NASA Apollo missions landed successfully on the moon. On the other hand, the Apollo 13 mission in April 1970 was a failure when the astronauts radioed in the direction of Earth: "Houston, we have a problem!" In the end, however, the spacemen could be saved. The last of the twelve US astronauts on the moon were Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

Since the end of the Cold War, the US has been working more closely with other states and organizations, including the Russian space agency. The best-known international cooperation in space is currently the International Space Station ISS, which is operated jointly by the USA, Russia, Canada, Japan and the European research agency ESA.

Private space providers are now playing an increasingly important role. Currently, for example, the US companies SpaceX and Boeing are independently building a space capsule on behalf of NASA, which should be suitable for manned space travel to the international space station ISS. SpaceX, behind which the entrepreneur Elon Musk stands, has already sent several unmanned supply transports to the ISS. In addition, other private companies are researching passenger flights for space. Some of them want to offer space flights as a tourist attraction for private individuals.

USA plans first manned flight to Mars

Almost 50 years after the last moon landing in 1972, both China and the USA are now planning to send people to the moon again. According to plans by the US government under President Donald Trump, the next manned US lunar mission should take place in 2024 and not in 2028. This time, the first woman should also step on the lunar surface. Furthermore, NASA plans to build a manned space station (Lunar Gateway) that will orbit the moon. The American space agency has already set itself the next big goal for the late 2030s: the first manned flight to Mars.

New competition for space

For some years now, the USA and Russia have been getting more and more competition in space from Asia. India and China are also planning manned flights to the moon. According to estimates, China in particular invests two to eight billion euros a year in its own space program. After the first unmanned landing on the back of the moon succeeded in early 2019, the first Chinese should set foot on the moon by 2030. Space is also becoming relevant from a military point of view, not least because near-Earth satellites are now central components of global telecommunications and navigation. US President Donald Trump has already announced the formation of a "Space Force" and NATO is also defining space as a future area of ​​operations. Some experts therefore believe that wars in space could at least have a say in the future.

More on the subject:

60 years of NASA: The long way into space (current background, July 26, 2018)

Christiane Bender: The birth of the knowledge society from the spirit of the Cold War

Axel Rühe: Citizens of the Reich, moon landing, reptilians, flat earth

Special on "Conspiracy Theories"