How the Space Race Fueled Innovation

Process Paper

How the Space Race Fueled Innovation

Group: Burkely Hermann, Anthony Vershov, Paul Weisko

Senior Division

Web Site


Process Paper

Choosing our topic

Our group chose the Space Race as our topic for innovation in history for several reasons. For one, space exploration from 1957 to 1975 resulted in numerous innovations and discoveries. Reaching the moon first was important for the United States because it captivated Americans and gave them a sense of national pride through fierce competition with the Soviet Union. The race to space was also important because it created excitement, resulting in the continuation of high funding levels, which then led to reaching the goals of landing men on the moon and the space missions that followed.

Conducting our research

We conducted our research several ways—from books and studying Internet sources to visiting museums. But, one of the best ways we found to gather in-depth information was to interview people who work in the space technology field. By doing so, we were able to get a first-hand perspective of how space exploration influenced and changed their generation and those innovations came from it. The experts we interviewed also shared their informed view of space exploration in the future. In addition, we studied timelines from 1957 to 1975 to understand how events and technological evolution shaped the Space Race and vice versa. Finally, following each History Day contest, we incorporated the judges’ comments, which led us to new sources, including the NASA Historical Collections.

Selecting a presentation category

We chose to use a web site to display our information because it is high-tech, modern, and interactive—just like our topic of space exploration. While our group discussed the topic at meetings together, we were able to spend time individually digging deeper into specific sub-topics, searching for videos and pictures online and finding experts to interview. We pooled our information, and then separated it into different categories and sub-categories in the web site. This makes it easier for viewers to navigate and find the information that interests them. Using a web site as our presentation category gave us the flexibility to use multiple types of media, including historical videos, such as President John F. Kennedy’s speech, and archival photographs of the Space Race. Finally, all of the group members are adept with online media and one member has created several web sites before.

How our web site relates to the theme

"Innovation in History: Impact and Change” was the topic this year. We chose the Space Race because of its profound impact on people worldwide. Everyone remembers the first man who walked on the moon. They also remember the iconic photograph of the Earth taken from space dubbed “the blue marble” because it showed our planet from a completely different perspective. Of course, the Space Race also led to numerous innovations in science and consumer technology—from big-budget satellites used for surveillance, communications, and weather, to everyday consumer goods like computer chips and software programs.