The Space Race

Essential Question: Was the Space Race About Space?

Common Core Standards: RH1, RH6, WHST1


Several sites will help teachers refresh memories about the space race:

The Space Race (Nebraska Studies)

Sputnik and the Origins of the Space Age (NASA History Division)


Students will debate the nature of the Space Race in four teams, using evidence to support their position on two questions:

Was the Space Race good or bad for the United States?

Was the Space Race really about science or the Cold War?


Play this sound for students: is external)

(It is a recording of Sputnik’s radio transmission.) Ask them to guess what it is.

Lay the groundwork for the lesson by painting a picture of 1950s Cold War America, including the concern about nuclear war.

Then show this clip from TED (3:47) that has David Hoffman introducing some of the key responses to Sputnik.