National Aeronautics and Space Council: The Race to Space, 1958 NASC

GROUP: Hybrid

  • Topic A: The Race to Space, 1958

TOPIC A The Race to Space, 1958



  • Serena Bernstein (she/her)
  • Jose Vazquez (he/him)
Email Committee Chair

By the end of World War II, two global superpowers emerged ready to expand their influence throughout the world–the United States and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The US and the USSR recognized each other as competitors and quickly turned to the arena of ballistic-missile development to demonstrate their rivalry. However, by 1957, the decade-old Cold War moved to a new frontier–space. With the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the world, and specifically the United States, had to reckon with the specter of an increasingly powerful Soviet Union. President Eisenhower did not address the press about Sputnik 1 for five days, and, when he did so, he declared that the launch did not raise his apprehensions one iota. While the President may have appeared unphased to the public, internally, the US government knew it had to respond. 

By November 3, 1957, the USSR had successfully launched a second spacecraft into orbit, while all the US had to show for its efforts was a monumental failure in its first attempt at launching a spacecraft into orbit through Project Vanguard. The US had to come to terms with the USSR’s out-performing it in rocket technology and with the fact that it was losing both the arms race and the space race. The US Congress responded to the mounting pressure by reshaping America’s space program with the National Aeronautics and Space Act in 1958. 

The 1958 Act ushered in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Council (NASC)–the very council that this committee will be simulating. Chaired by the President herself, this committee will be responding to a fraught space program requiring immediate action. As scientists, military members, politicians, and other high-ranking officials, delegates must stay aware of the developments of a tense geopolitical crisis while also keeping in mind the potential of space exploration as a symbol of peaceful coexistence and human progress. While the actual historical progression of the Space Race is important, delegates will be able to rewrite the history of American space exploration as we know it through crisis-style debate in Sessions I, II, and III. In Sessions IV and V, the committee will switch to General Assembly format to facilitate the creation of an International Space Treaty–a testament to what was done earlier in committee and the commitments of each delegate to international interests. Being a delegate on NASC will be an out-of-this-world experience, and we cannot wait to see you there and see your ideas.