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Letter from Representative David S. King to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, April 15, 1961

When Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space, Representative David King of Utah wrote a strongly worded letter to Vice President Lyndon Johnson. King argued that “the space race is fiction” because the U.S. was not keeping pace with the Soviets’ spectacular achievements. He urged that greater funding be allotted to the space program.

Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

Letter from Representative David S. King to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, April 15, 1961

The Space Race

As an outgrowth of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union began the "space race" in the 1950s. By competing to make important advances in space exploration, both nations sought to advance not only scientific but also political and security objectives. The Soviets launched the first satellite in 1957 and put the first astronaut into orbit in 1961. In response, the House and Senate established science committees and President John F. Kennedy made space exploration a national priority. He recommended to Congress that the U.S. be first to land a man on the moon, an inspiring goal that was achieved in 1969.