Theme 10 -  The Space Race

The Space Race

The world changed forever on 4 October 1957, when the Soviet Union announced that it had launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik 1; the space race had begun. Less than a month later, the Soviet Union launched another satellite, this time carrying a dog called Laika, in order to test the animal's reactions to space travel. The USA followed with its first satellite in February 1958, and by the end of 1959, both superpowers had sent unmanned rockets to the moon.

The first human was launched into space in April 1961. Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union spent 108 minutes orbiting the earth before landing again. But it was November 1969 before American Neil Armstrong walked on the surface of the moon.

Winning the space race was of enormous scientific importance, but it was also a matter of great prestige for both the USA and the Soviet Union. Illingworth refers to this in his cartoons, sometimes portraying Eisenhower and Khrushchev as neighbours and sometimes as enemies, depending on the international climate at the time.



Cartoons about the launching of Sputnik 1 showing Khrushchev celebrating, a dog called Laika being launched into space by the Soviet Union, the first pictures of the dark side of the moon, and the launch of a Soviet satellite.

ILW2814
ILW2816
ILW3031
ILW3298
ILW2814
28 October 1957
ILW2816
4 November 1957
ILW3031
28 October 1959
ILW3298
6 February 1961

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Cartoons showing the launching of an American rocket, aliens welcome the Americans, Lunik II orbiting the moon, and Roman III landing on the moon

ILW2841
ILW4366
ILW3013
ILW4076
ILW2841
3 February 1958
ILW4366
ca. 1965
ILW3013
14 September 1959
ILW4076
21 April 1967


Click here for more cartoons relating to the Space Race in the 1950s
Click here for more cartoons relating to the Space Race in the 1960s



Further information about the Space Race can be found at the BBC Science website, the NASA website, and the Smithsonian Institute website


Search the cartoon collection on the e-Resources catalogue