The Apollo program was the third and final phase of the US effort to attain the goal, set by President Kennedy in 1961, of landing a man on the Moon before the end of the decade. The three-man Apollo spacecraft was powered by the mighty Saturn 5 rocket developed by a team headed by the German-born Wernher von Braun. After a tragic start (Apollo 1 burned on the launch pad, killing all 3 astronauts), the program regained its form, and on June 20, 1969, Apollo 11, commanded by Neil Armstrong, landed on the Moon. Near-tragedy was averted when Apollo 13 suffered an explosion in space, but the astronauts were returned safely to earth. A total of six lunar landings in various locations took place between 1969 and 1972. The final high point in the history of the Apollo program was the Apollo-Soyuz joint Soviet-American docking in space in 1975.
"Gulag" is the Russian acronym for the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps, a vast system of penal institutions and labor camps with its own factories, construction companies, and even research laboratories that existed throughout most of the Soviet period. Originally intended to isolate politically unhealthy elements from society and perhaps to "re-educate" them, the system grew to amazing proportions in the 1930s, as Stalin's paranoia resulted in the Great Purges, when anybody could be labelled an "enemy of the people" and sentenced to 10 or more years of hard labor for the slightest slip of the tongue. Indeed, many of the 10 million or more people who went through the Gulag system were completely innocent--the state had simply determined that it was cheaper and more manageable to have them do their jobs as prisoners than as free persons; indeed, no free worker would have agreed to do some of the dangerous work that the prisoners were forced to do. A number of research labs were simply arrested wholesale and sucked into the Gulag. Millions of people perished from the harsh conditions in the camps, since the state was not concerned about work safety or nutrition--new people could always be arrested to replace those who had died on the job. The definitive study of the Soviet system of forced-labor camps remains Alexander Solzhenitsyn's three-volume "The Gulag Archipelago".
An inter-continental ballistic missile, or ICBM, is a large, land-based rocket that shoots a payload (generally a nuclear weapon) up to a sufficiently high altitude that its free-fall descent trajectory will take it towards a target on another continent, where it is timed to explode. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union had enough ICBMs pointing at each other to destroy both countries many times over. Since the 1970s, there have been numerous talks and treaties (ABM, SALT, START) between the two nations aimed at reducing the threat posed by these weapons.
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Sputnik 2, launched on November 3, 1957, a mere month after the first Sputnik, carried a live dog named Laika, proving that living creatures could survive in a space capsule. Nikita Khrushchev insisted that the launch take place before the 40th anniversary of the October Revolution on November 7, but this did not provide enough time to develop a mechanism to return Laika safely to earth. The animal died when its life support systems ran out after ten days in space. Future Soviet space dogs were returned safely to earth.
"Minuteman" was the name of one of the first U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). Deployed in 1962, it was the first ICBM to use solid fuel and to be based in an underground silo. Today, 500 third-generation Minuteman III's, each containing 3 separate warheads, represent the bulk of the US land-based ICBM arsenal. Per a treaty with Russia, they are due to be converted into single-warhead missiles by 2003.
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Rockets are internal-combustion engines that need no outside air, as they carry both fuel and oxidizer on board. These burn in a combustion chamber and are released at high pressure through a nozzle, thus giving the rocket its thrust. Although the technology has existed since the Middle Ages in China, and small rockets were even used by the British against Napoleon, it is only in the 20th century that the rocket truly come into its own. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky set the stage by establishing in 1883 that rockets could work in space, and later hypothesized on multi-stage design and on the advantages of liquid fuel. The next milestone was set by Robert Goddard's successful experiments with liquid fuel rockets in 1926. At around the same time, numerous German scientists were also developing rocket technology, among them a youngster by the name of Wernher von Braun. In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler came to power, the German Army realized that there was no mention of rockets in the Versailles Treaty of 1918, which had placed severe restrictions on German rearmament--and von Braun found himself an enthusiastic sponsor. The result of these efforts was the V2, which rained death on London and Antwerp in 1944 and 1945, and later served as the starting point for both the US and Soviet ICBM and space programs. Rocket research after WWII centered primarily on the development of longer-range and more accurate missiles as weapons delivery systems, but visionaries such as Sergei Korolev had grander ambitions--sending humans into outer space. Although the funding for his research was strictly military, Korolev never lost sight of his aims, and finally found the support he needed after the unexpected worldwide success of the launch of the first artificial earth satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev immediately recognized its value as a propaganda tool, and put his enthusiastic support behind the development of a full-fledged space program with easily-exploitable milestones--first dog in space, first man in space, first woman in space, first marriage of a man and woman who had been in space, etc. Overnight, the rocket ceased to be merely a military tool, and had become a potent weapon in the ideological war between East and West. The space race had begun, and the Soviets had what seemed an insurmountable lead. Inspired by the challenge set by President John Kennedy, the United States rose to the occasion and put the first man on the moon in 1969. Since then, rockets have lost much of their romance, and are now used mostly for more prosaic tasks such as launching new communications satellites. The United States and Russia are in continual negotiations aimed at ultimately dismantling much of the vast arsenal of nuclear-tipped missiles they built to attack one another since the 1950s.
Artificial satellites (as opposed to natural ones, such as the moon) are placed into orbit around the earth by a rocket and perform numerous tasks, including scientific research, military reconnaissance, navigation, and telecommunications. The first such satellite, Sputnik, was launched by the Soviet Union on October 4, 1957. It caused such a sensation throughout the world that the Soviet leadership (which had until then seen rocket technology as being primarily useful as a nuclear weapon delivery system) threw its weight behind the fledgling space program in order to maximize its propaganda value.
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"Sputnik" was the first artificial earth satellite, a sphere containing a radio beacon and weighing 184 pounds, that was placed into orbit by the USSR on October 4, 1957, thus officially launching the "space race", which culminated in the Americans landing a man on the moon 12 years later. The success of Sputnik was a major propaganda coup for the Soviets, as the West had tended to dismiss them as technologically backward until that time. A month later, the Soviets shocked the world again with the considerably larger Sputnik 2, containing a live dog, Laika, which survived for 10 days in space before its life support systems ran out.
The V-2 was a liquid-fueled rocket with a range of approximately 200 miles that developed in Nazi Germany under the technical direction of Wernher von Braun. Several thousand were used with devastating effect on London, Antwerp, and other areas of Europe in 1944 and 1945, even though their guidance systems left much to be desired. To a large extent, both Russian and American post-war rocket and missile technology is directly descended from the V-2.