The Great Space Race

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12595

When you think of a race, do you think of cars, or horses, or even feet? Many years ago, the most powerful nations "raced" in space! Learn about a cold war and a hot competition, then write about it!


United States

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind!”

  • What's that all about?
  • Why is that man dressed like that?

Buzz Aldrin salutes the US Flag

Image by Neil A. Armstrong, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union, which is presently known as Russia, began an intense competition to prove their political ideas were superior to the other's.

This time period, which lasted until 1991, is referred to as the Cold War. One of the ways each side attempted to prove superiority over the other was to increase their technology in space. The effort to put the first pieces of technology and men in space became known as the Space Race.

You can learn more about the Space Race by looking at the following interactive timeline.

As you examine the timeline, keep track of which side was ahead in the Space Race: the United States or the Soviet Union. You can keep track of each side's accomplishments by creating the following chart on a piece of paper:

United States Soviet Union






Each time you read an example of a United States accomplishment in space travel and technology, write a tally mark on the United States side of the chart. Each time you read an example of a Soviet Union accomplishment, put a tally mark on the Soviet Union side of the chart.


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When you are finished reviewing the timeline, use the chart you created to help you answer the following questions. You can write your questions on a separate piece of paper or type your responses in the spaces provided below:

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When you have finished answering the questions, move onto the Got It? section to take a virtual tour of one of the largest displays of spacecraft in the United States.

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