The Cold War

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In 5 sentences, describe the Cold War-era arms race/space race.

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The arms race and the space race (between the United States and the Soviet Union) were closely related. They occurred in the context of the Cold War, a decades-long international conflict between the two superpowers that had ideological, geopolitical, and economic dimensions. The arms race was a military buildup that...

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The arms race and the space race (between the United States and the Soviet Union) were closely related. They occurred in the context of the Cold War, a decades-long international conflict between the two superpowers that had ideological, geopolitical, and economic dimensions. The arms race was a military buildup that began with the development of atomic weapons by the United States at the end of the Second World War. After the Soviets successfully tested an atomic bomb in 1949, both sides scrambled to develop more powerful nuclear weapons as well as conventional forces. This cost billions over the course of the conflict and kept the world constantly at the brink of destructive nuclear war. The "space race" was in many ways part of this broader conflict. This was because the technologies necessary to put satellites into space could also be used to deliver nuclear weapons to targets within the borders of the respective nations. "Winning" the space race, then, suggested military superiority in the Cold War. This is why, for example, the United States undertook a dramatic program of military spending and educational reform in the wake of the launch of Sputnik in 1957. At the same time, both superpowers sought to illustrate the virtues of their respective political and economic systems to the world, and the space race provided a key arena in which this ideological struggle could be waged. The successful missions to the moon by the United States were held up as triumphs for a free capitalist society, though they were in fact the consequence of massive government spending on products and services produced by big corporations.

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