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The epic obstacles to landing on the Moon

The Soviet Union stunned the world in 1957 when they successfully launched the first satellite into space, Sputnik 1. They did it again on April 12, 1961, when cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became both the first man in space and the first to orbit the Earth.

Within a week of Gagarin’s mission, Kennedy told his administration of his determination to beat the Soviets in the “space race,” telling Congress a month later, “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” The early Soviet successes were soon surpassed: while the Soviets secretly began planning for a lunar mission in the mid-1960s, the program was cancelled in 1970, and to date no cosmonaut has ever stepped foot on the Moon.

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