51

It was more of a back-and-forth. You can build a narrative of one side out-pacing the other if you cherry-pick firsts, but their capabilities were very close. The timeline of first achievements is interleaved. Firsts grab headlines and demonstrate national priorities, but they don't show capability well. The other side would often accomplish something ...


47

You should define more precisely what do you mean by "space travel" when you are talking about pre-Galileo times. For example, Elijah, the prophet, was taken to heavens in a chariot of fire, according to the Bible (2 Kings 2:3-9). Mohammed also traveled to heavens, on a winged horse, according to Koran. A travel to heavens is described in Dante's ...


36

The linked Smithsonian page also has this page from a report, which expresses it a bit more explictly: ...completed an earthbound journey of nearly 14,000 miles by land, visiting the capitals of the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia. The mobile display completed the tour travelling 12,000 miles by sea, for visits to Honolulu in April, 1971, ...


27

The earliest mention I know of the possibility was the novella A True History by Lucian in the 2nd century AD, where at one point the protagonists are taken to the moon by a whirlwind, meet the strange creatures living on the moon, and discover a war between the kingdom of the sun and the kingdom of the moon. Outside of European / classical culture, the ...


18

I think the premise of the question - that the US ought to have a technological superiority over the USSR, as it did in other areas - is quite sensible here, so I will address the Soviet side of the story. for some context, Soviet Russia happened to have it own vast talent in STEM (as witnessed e. g. by Nobel prizes to Tamm-Frank-Cherenkov and Landau), and ...


11

Your question is based on a misconception, which is that there was any sort of "space race" before the Soviets launched Sputnik. The US had some fairly low budget research programs, such as Project Vanguard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Vanguard Unlike the Soviet programs, they were regarded as purely scientific*, and so did not use ICBMs ...


9

Definitely not as old as the other answers, but a classic book about space travel is Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, dating back to 1865. I'm quite surprised you didn't find that one. Of course, the concepts were still pretty crude at the time (firing a spaceship with a cannon!), but it was the inspiration for many later works, including the first ...


8

It did so, but only initially. Over the long term, it fell behind in most areas, and once the USA was first on the Moon the space race was over with the USA the victor. Rewind back to the beginning of the 1950s. The Cold War had just started, both the USA and USSR had lots of nukes, but the USA had a massive advantage because its bases in Europe allowed its ...


7

The Epic of Gilgamesh dates from as early as the Third Dynasty of Ur (c. 2100 BC), and mentions travel, e.g., see the Standard Babylonian version tablets II–V, specifically: he spoke to Young Hero Utu, the son born of Ningal: ‘Now, when (as the Sun God) you make an opening in the Netherworld, bring his servant up to him from the Netherworld!’ He made an ...


5

Since the answers so far give conflicting accounts on the amount and/or tone of reporting, I decided to add some material so that everyone can judge for themself. Pravda The report in Pravda on 21.07, titled "Cosmonauts on Moon", looks like this: It is clear from the text that the bulk of it was written when the outcome of the landing was unknown ...


5

Here is something from a New York Times article January 13, 1920 That professor Goddard, with his ‘chair’ in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution [from which Goddard held a grant to research rocket flight], does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to ...


1

One book which mentions many early stories of sort of space travel is Rockets, Missiles, and Men in Space by Willy Ley. My edition, published in the mid 1960s, starts with several chapters covering the prehistory of space travel stories from before the discoveries of Galileo to early stories of travel to the moon or other planets to 19th and early 20th ...


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