The Space Race was a combination between the U.S.S.R. and the United States. It began in 1955 and ended in 1972.
The Space Race got its roots in Germany during the 1930s. At that time, the Nazis built ballistic missiles and experimented with liquid-fueled rockets that could travel long distances at high altitudes. Eventually, Germany began producing the A-4 rocket which was the first vehicle able to reach outer space.
Both the United States and the Soviet Union saw military benefit in developing the Nazi rocket technology further and by the start of the Cold War in 1947, things between the two nations had fallen apart. In 1949, the U.S. lost its hold on the atomic bomb and for the first time, the superpower realized it could find itself at the receiving end of the incredible weapon. Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, ordered the development of the ballistic missiles to counter any threat the U.S. could pose. In 1953, the Soviet Union developed its first rocket, which was an improvement over German design.
During the early days of the Space Race, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union had built missiles that could be used to launch objects into space. However, the U.S.S.R. got the lead on the U.S. when it launched the first rocket in space in 1957. The crowning moment for the U.S. was when it launched Apollo 11 and put the first man on the moon on July 20, 1969.