How the Space Race Changed American Education

April 12 marks the 58th anniversary of the first human spaceflight, achieved by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On the occasion now called the International Day of Human Spaceflight, we look back on the extraordinary achievement, the U.S.-Soviet space race, and the explosive growth of science and technology education that went with it.

Editor’s note: Random-Access Memories is a new periodic series highlighting the ways in which major historical events have influenced ed tech. Got an idea for a future edition of R-AM? Drop us a line.

Poyekhali!” he cried as the engines unleashed. “Let’s go!”

On April 12, 1961, the R-7 rocket let loose its nearly two million-pound yield at 9:07 a.m. Moscow time, sending a crackling roar across the dry steppe of Baikonur in Kazakhstan and propelling the Vostok 1 spacecraft beyond Earth’s atmosphere, far beyond the parched brown desert of the planet below. In the process, its captain, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human to leave our planet. His famous exclamation, colloquial and impromptu, has since been adopted around the world as a symbol of optimistic adventure.

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