I'm still all hopped-up on moonwalk sauce today, so I thought it would be worthwhile to take a moment to consider the other end of the Space Race-- the Soviets. After all, without a competitor, it's not really a race, now is it?
At the beginning of the 1960s, a betting man would have likely put his cash down on a hammer and sickle getting planted into the lunar regolith before Old Glory. It makes sense-- the Soviets had a hell of a space program, which, by certain metrics (endurance, space station systems) can still be considered the best in the world.
But they didn't get to the moon. They came close-- closer than most people realize-- and for years they denied they were even trying. They were close to scooping the US's Apollo 8 trans-lunar flight (they did get some turtles to fly around the moon), they had a massive moon rocket, a one-man lander, and an impressive mother ship-- but they didn't have the money, time, or, really, leadership to get it all together.
In the end, they had too many technical problems with the N-1 moon rocket (it had many engines that had to all work together-- a technical nightmare), and just not enough money or time to fix it. They did eventually get lunar samples returned robotically, and sent some delightfully jalopy-like lunar rovers to the moon. These rovers were long suspected to have had human (midget or child) drivers, so, who knows, maybe they did get some comrades up there after all.
Anyway, as we happily remember Buzz and Neil, spare a thought for our lovable loser pals. Things would have been lots more exciting if they made it up there, too, and I bet we'd still be there now if there was a Moskvaluna next door to Moon-Newark.
Carrie McLaren & Jason Torchinsky are coeditors of _Ad Nauseam: A Survivor's Guide to American Consumer Culture_. In previous lives, they worked together on the hopelessly obscure and now defunct Stay Free! magazine. He lives in LA and writes for the Onio