The Impact of Space Race on the Future of Inventions

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The Space Race was born during the beginnings of the Cold War. The Cold War was ultimately a succession of major wars and events that included multiple nations from around the world. It mainly consisted of hard-fought and bloody combat to determine a nation’s superiority over another, as demonstrated by the Korean War. However, the Space Race was anything but that, the Soviet Union and the United States challenged one another to see who could ultimately achieve human space flight first; thus, kicking off the Space Race. The race would also uncover one nation’s technological and science-related dominance. The dueling countries also used this as a way to test rocket technology for future military uses. The Space Race was born when the Soviet Union launched the world's first satellite, Sputnik. Fearful of Soviet military control of space, the Americans quickly readied a satellite to challenge their new-found power. Throughout the Space Race, many satellites were sent into orbit, many rockets sent into space, until the United States effectively won by putting the first man on the moon. As a result, the United States had the greatest technological impact on the Space Race because of all the advancements and new technology that were made by NASA. It was just a question of which technology had the greatest impact of them all. Some of this technology included artificial limbs, satellite TV, and reinvented tires, all of which serve a big part of our everyday life today. However, in the eyes of others, NASA’s portable computer had a greater, longer-lasting impact, it was first introduced as it was used onboard their missions. Effectively, it left a longer-lasting impact on the world, starting the portable technology wave.

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The material used for the modern-day tire was first used as a rope-like material for a parachute on the Viking lander mission to Mars. This invention would change transportation forever, making it easier to go longer distances with these new tires. This new material created by NASA and the Goodyear tire company began in the 1970s in the home stretch of the Space Race that would end in 1975. After the success that the companies shared, they continued their work together and created the tires used in Apollo 14 that hit the moon in 1971. The tires were used for their lunar vehicle which helped them travel around the moon faster; additionally, it helped them transport the 90 pounds of rock back to the space shuttle. Kolbe from the Telegraph writes, “NASA partnered with a chemical company to make a new material for parachute cords on Mars landers. It was stronger than steel and good at absorbing shocks. Tire manufacturers developed the material further. It improved the tread life of conventional tires by more than 100,000 miles.” (Kolbe) This quote from the New York Times breaks down how NASA and Goodyear would change the tire industry forever. This new technology allowed for cars to go a greater distance without having to replace their tires. The tires were originally developed as the parachute cords for the Mars landers, Goodyear was able to notice how well the material held up. This new tire was a mix of the material used in the parachute as well as the preexisting tire that was used by Goodyear before. As a result, this would change vehicle transportation forever, it made it possible to go a longer distance in a car without having to change the tires. Additionally, the new material used as the tires’ tread would be used to make other tread types for different conditions.

Another revolutionary invention that came about from the Space Race was the invention of artificial limbs. While the Soviet Union and the United States did not directly impact the invention of artificial limbs, their lunar vehicles’ parts did. The parts used in making the lunar landers were built tough for the conditions that they may face in space. The joints that are made for artificial limbs today are made to be long-lasting, like real joints. Additionally, there were foam pieces used, that are now used to make the prosthetics more comfortable for the user, and they both originated from parts of the Apollo rover missions. Many of the parts used there are also used in robots and other robotic related items. The Telegraph writes, “Many of the parts used in modern artificial limbs were developed for space vehicles. Diamond coatings make joints last longer and special foams make prosthetics more comfortable. Advanced robotics make artificial limbs operate more like the real thing.” (Kolbe) As a result, these parts that contributed to the creation of the artificial limb would change many people’s lives forever. People who were once missing a limb now have access to a life-like replacement with the parts and technology put into this creation. While it had not directly impacted the creation of this new and improved version, it certainly made the experience for the patient better than before. Additionally, the parts are used in robots today; these robots serve many different purposes in different areas but they all have evolved with the joint like technology made by NASA in their space vehicles. Overall, the products made by NASA would change the lives of many people because their technology would turn out to be used in artificial limbs.

The use of the satellite in space exploration greatly impacted people from then to now. The first satellite that was successfully sent up into space was launched by the Soviets in 1957, its name was Sputnik. However, the United States quickly responded with their first satellite that launched just a year later, this satellite was much more impressive than the Soviet Union’s beachball-sized one. Explorer 1, the U.S.’s first satellite, sent back data about the radiation environment high above Earth's surface. This eventually all came in handy when they sent Armstrong and Aldrin up into space, the information from the satellites helped make the lunar landing possible. Since then and throughout the Space Race satellites have improved, they provide information about Earth's clouds, oceans, land, and air. All this information helps scientists predict weather and climate. Satellites also tell us a lot about space and assist us by exploring stars, planets, asteroids, and comets. More importantly, with satellites, TV signals, GPS locations, and phone calls can be sent up to a satellite. The satellite can then send them back down to different locations on Earth, which allows us to spread information faster and has had an astronomical impact on our lives. William McConnell writes in his book Living Through the Space Race, “‘O.K., Houston, I’m on the porch,’ he reported, as he descended. On the second step from the top, he pulled a lanyard that released a fold-down equipment compartment on the side of the lunar module. This deployed the television camera that transmitted the dramatic pictures of man’s first steps on the moon”. (McConnell 94) This quote demonstrates how the satellite TV helped provide the video that millions of Americans watched live; the most significant space related accomplishment to this day. The men aboard Apollo 11 used a camera that broadcasted the footage live to Earth, using satellites they had deployed earlier. Satellite television has been used since to allow people to watch different programs from around the world, satellites also allow for long distance calls which previously were very expensive to set up. Since this significant day in history, television and communication, in general, has come a long way, not as many people continue to use satellite television due to other advancements but satellite TV led the way none the less. After Sputnik’s historic day, there have been a total of 8,378 objects that have been launched into space and there are currently 4,987 satellites cruising around above our heads every single day. While it is not as common today, there is no doubt that satellite TV has impacted how information is shared globally, making it more accessible and faster to communicate.

On the other hand, some argue that NASA’s other invention of the first portable computer was the most significant invention of the Space Race because it led to today’s useful portable devices. The “Shuttle Portable On-Board Computer” was known as the first portable computer. Also referred to as “SPOC,” the laptop was first used in the space shuttle Challenger, originally created between NASA and the GRiD company. The computer was specially designed for the mission with characteristics such as being able to operate in the weightless environment and a cooling fan to move the heat around evenly in the zero-G space. The main goal of this invention was to assist the astronauts on board by managing their mission, assisting the navigation, and as a backup to prepare the shuttle for return to Earth. Eventually, features that were built into the SPOC can now be found in modern day laptop computers and other portable devices. Smithsonian National Air and Space curator, Paul Ceruzzi writes, “The first portable computer, the Grid Compass, was used on multiple shuttle missions in the 1980s. Nicknamed SPOC (Shuttle Portable On-Board Computer), the computer could communicate with onboard devices and was used to launch satellites off space shuttles.” (Ceruzzi) While what Ceruzzi said is true and important to note, this invention would not have even been possible without satellites from NASA’s previous advancements and it has not directly impacted people’s lives as much as artificial limbs. Without the satellites launched before this mission, the computer would not be able to communicate with the crew on Earth, meaning that they would not be able to help them as much and walk them through step by step. Additionally, a computer cannot directly impact someone as much as getting back a lost limb and being able to function like before, even though it may not impact as many people, it is life-changing for the people who need it. If the “Shuttle Portable On-Board Computer” had been more like-for-like with the technology in portable computers today, it would have been more directly impactful but it only inspired the development of more advanced technology in this field.

As time passes, the usefulness of these inventions reduces; however, they still served a big impact by inspiring and leading the way for the incredible inventions and technology present today. Throughout the duration of the Space Race, it became obvious that the United States had a greater technological impact than the Soviet Union. When it comes down to determining which ones are better, looking at the long-lasting impact that they have served as the most important aspect. Their inventions included reinvented tires, artificial limbs, and satellite television which inspired a new wave of technology and impacted the lives of many people. In the eyes of others, it can be argued that the SPOC had a greater impact on the future generation because of the wave of portable technology that followed this innovation. It is difficult to say which of the breakthroughs were more impactful but it can be determined that they all served a big part in creating the technology in today’s world.

McConnel, William S. Living Through the Space Race. Greenhaven Press, 2006. This writer has written eight other books on the significant events of the 20th century.

This was my printed source in my paper and was used as evidence for the satellite’s impact. This helped me support my case for the impact of the satellite. It helped explain how the United States used satellites to give people on Earth a look at the first steps on the moon. This source was very helpful in the writing of this paper because it also gave me additional information that I used in other parts of the text. Compared to other sources, this one was by far the most useful because of the amount of information I used from this source. The information is reliable. The source may be a little biased because it is from the standpoint of an American but it isn’t comparing. The goal of this source was to inform the reader about the events that took place leading up to the first steps on the moon.

Ceruzzi, Paul. “A Laptop in Space.” National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, 22 Mar. 2017,

I used this source as my evidence in my counter-argument about how the SPOC was the most influential invention of the space race. This supported the counterarguments creditability. It is a useful source; however, I think that it could have been more useful if it had talked more about the impact of the invention. In comparison, it was a god source that gave me background on the invention and its purpose which contributed to the background and analysis in my paper. The source is reliable, and the author has an accomplished career. No, this source is not biased because it isn’t comparing another similar subject. The goal of this source is to provide information on the invention of the SPOC computer.

Kolbe, Kerry. “10 Tech Developments to Thank the Space Race For.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 9 Feb. 2017,

I used this source to back both my argument towards the impact of the artificial limb and the reinvention of the tire. It supported this paper by giving evidence and giving a basis for analysis.

This was a useful source because it gave me two different topics that were featured in my paper. It probably isn’t the most reliable source from this paper but it is still reliable. The information is reliable and the Telegraph is known for being a reliable source. This source isn’t biased at all. The goal of this source was to provide readers with background on well-known inventions and provide their origins.  

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