It was in the latter part of the 1960s when America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration succeeded in landing a manned mission on the moon. But this event is not enough to define the 60s; it was the Cold War between the USSR and the United States of America that can rightfully make this claim. A closer look into the motivations behind the space program will reveal that the driving force was President Kennedy’s desire to show the world that the American way of life is better than what communism has to offer.
In 1960, Nikita Khrushchev, Soviet Russia’s commander-in-chief declared that America’s grandchildren would live under communism” (Shapiro, 2004). In 1963 America was in the brink of a nuclear war with the USSR. The Cuban Missile Crisis was averted only at the last minute. Both Russia and the United States were determined to show the whole world which ideology was the best (Westad, 2007). It is a good thing that both nations were evenly matched and so the world was spared another global war.
But since Khrushchev made that UN speech, Americans could never rest easy. Although there were no Russian-made nuclear warheads that found its way into American soil, people still live in dread. According to Shapiro, “We constructed mock air raids in our schools; we engineered civil defense plans to expedite evacuations of metropolitan areas, we built up our military forces and armament” (2004). In short the Cold War consumed the whole of the United States and its impact will be felt three decades later.a
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Topic: The Cold War
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