Photograph of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man, after Neil Armstrong, to step foot on the Moon, July 20, 1969. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.


This exhibition was created as part of the DPLA’s Digital Curation Program by the following students in Professor Helene Williams's capstone course at the Information School at the University of Washington: Danielle Rios, Dianne Bohach, Jennifer Lam, and Bobbi deMontigny.


Rios, Danielle, Dianne Bohach, Jennifer Lam, and Bobbi deMontigny. America and the Race to the Moon. Digital Public Library of America. October 2015.

After World War II, there was non-violent, political hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR), which became known as the Cold War. During this contentious time, both nations created rockets for long-range military weaponry. The Cold War catalyzed the expansion of rocket technology and each country’s desire to conquer outer space. Not only did America want to explore one of the last frontiers, it also wanted to claim technological dominance over the USSR and ensure America’s title of superiority in a time of unease and tension. In 1955, the US and the USSR each announced plans to launch a satellite into orbit. Who would be the first to succeed?

 On October 4, 1957, the USSR launched Sputnik I into orbit, taking the lead in the Space Race. Only four months later, the US successfully launched its own satellite, the Explorer I, into space. In the wake of these first successful orbital space flights, President Dwight D. Eisenhower recommended to the US Congress that a civilian agency should be established to direct non-military space activities. Thus, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was born and the Space Race was underway. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the American space program and its new classes of astronauts achieved breakthroughs in science and space explorationeven sending a man to the Moon.