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  The Space Race | Apollo 8's Accomplishments | Apollo 8's Risks
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The Space Race

'The United States will emerge the victor from the moon race.' - China Post; 'Shrouded in secrecy, the Russian scientists are working on their next step.' - The [London] Times; ' wary of space ventures carried out in a spirit of nationalistic rivalry.' - The Toronto Daily Star Competition between the two superpowers raged not only on earth, but also in the cosmos, as the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. vied to be first on the moon.

Following a string of early Soviet successes, the U.S. seemed to pull ahead in manned missions. However, Americans knew little about the state of efforts behind the Iron Curtain.

Saturn V (First) Stage for Apollo 8 in the Vehicle Assembly Building The New York Times, April 23, 1967

Soviet Orbits an Astronaut For First Time in 2 Years

Some Western observers believed the Soyuz was the first of the Russians' third-generation spacecraft, perhaps the equivalent of the American Apollo moon ship.

One Western space expert said reports coming out of the Soviet Union in the last few days suggested the Russians were about to make the first manned test of rockets and space vehicles from which they would in due course assemble both a manned laboratory to orbit the earth and a lunar expedition.

China Post, December 28, 1968

The successful space flight has given the United States the biggest lead it has ever held in the 11-year-old moon race with the Soviet Union. It certainly is enough cause for rejoicing... We knew full well that the United States could overtake Russia in the space race anytime it wanted to. So far Washington has slashed the space budget many times for political considerations. The smaller space budget alone was responsible for having prevented America from assuming the lead in the moon race. The successful Apollo 8 flight now assures the whole world that the United States will emerge the victor from the moon race with the Soviet Union.

The [London] Times, December 31, 1968

Faint praise for Apollo 8

Perhaps with tongue in cheek, [Soviet space scientist Dr. Boris Petrov] declared that the Apollo 8 crew had displayed all the more courage in the face of unknown perils because the Americans had skipped [an] intermediate stage.

Instead, the Apollo had relied on the flight pattern and reentry techniques originated by the Soviet Zonds, which by implication were entitled to some of the credit for the Apollo's success.

Like other Soviet commentators before him, Dr. Petrov, without saying it in so many words, seemed to imply that the American lunar programme concentrated on landing an expedition on the moon with undue haste for the sake of publicity.

The [London] Times, December 28, 1968

Russians May Yet Beat U.S. to the Planets

The success of Apollo 8 is a small, but significant step in the exploration of the solar system. By midsummer next year the Americans expect to land two men on the moon while directing their attention even farther outward to the planets.

Meanwhile, shrouded in secrecy, the Russian scientists are working on their next step; it may well be their cosmonauts who make the next big breakthrough in space.

The Apollo 8 success no longer makes it an idle dream to launch a flying laboratory that could go via Jupiter and Saturn and then on to Uranus and Neptune. The questions will still be -- who does it first, and can one nation afford to do it alone?

The Toronto Daily Star, December 28, 1968

We like to think the Apollo flight is but another step in humanity's progress from the caves. We call it a scientific achievement because we believe it was born of the simple, noble curiosity that sets us apart from other animals... Independent scientists suspect that the desire to put a space team on the lunar surface -- and to do it first -- has led to a costly distortion of priorities.

But we have to be wary of space ventures carried out in a spirit of nationalistic rivalry... Maybe the ancients weren't so wrong, after all, when they theorized that lunacy is caused by a strange power of the moon to unhinge the minds of men.

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