1 February 2008
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50-year Anniversary of US in Space
So who won the race?
by Carol Pinchefsky
by Carol Pinchefsky

Batman has the Joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. And 50 years ago, the Soviet Union and the United States had each other.

The Soviet Union heralded the space age with the launch of the Sputnik satellite on October 4, 1957, and again with Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. The United States followed on their heels with their own satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958. (A first attempt in December 1957 did not succeed.)

With that, the race began in earnest. This jockeying for dominance of space continued until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In one light, both countries won the space race: the Americans launched more satellites, but the Soviet Union kept cosmonauts in space continuously for almost 10 years.

In another light, NASA and other space agencies have so far kept the space program to a select few astronauts. But Roskosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency, has put 5 paying tourists into space. At US$20 million each, Roskosmos has earned itself part of a new space race--so long as it can stay the course, while NASA cost of operation was US$15.1 billion in 2007 aloneŚwith few prospects of the US tax payer recouping any of that cost.

The old space race has been over for 15 years, but the new space race is now only just starting. Who would have guessed, a decade ago, that for prospective space tourists the real race would be against time?
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Carol Pinchefsky 1 February 2008
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