Building Bridges and Space Stations

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Astronaut Karen Nyberg. Courtesy of Minnesota Public Radio via Minnesota Digital Library. 

Apollo 11 was followed by six more Apollo missions, five of which landed on the Moon. However, with support declining in Congress, President Richard Nixon only backed future funding for a space shuttle to facilitate development of permanent space stations. The Soviet Union, after their loss in the race to the Moon, shifted their focus to orbital space stations and, on April 19, 1971, successfully launched Earth's first space station, Salyut 1.

On July 17, 1975, during the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the United States and the Soviet Union performed the first joint space docking between two nations. This was the first of many collaborations in space between these former rivals. Notably, between 1995 and 1998, astronauts from both nations lived on the Russian space station, Mir. In 1998, construction of the International Space Station began, a collaborative, global venture between Japan, Canada, Brazil, Europe, Russia, and the US that remains ongoing.

The Space Race and the scientific developments that made it possible had an important historic impact, not only for the United States and Soviet Union, but for the rest of the world. Space exploration required innovations in a range of fields, such as computer science and medicine, and NASA technology has even made its way back down to Earth, impacting developments in everything from prosthetics and cancer treatments to LED lights. Today, NASA and US astronauts and scientists continue building on the creativity and exploration of their predecessors in the 1960s, exploring new planets and recently confirming another big breakthroughthe presence of water on Mars.