Miller Center

John F. Kennedy and the Space Race

Holly Forman, Landstown H.S. (Virginia, Veach, VA)
Lisa Kopacz, Landstown H.S. (Virginia Beach, VA)

Edited by John Sturtz, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

General Topic

The Cold War

Specific Topic

The Space Race


The student will:

  • Identify the chronology of the space race
  • Analyze the relationship between the space race and the Cold War
  • Evaluate JFK’s agenda regarding America’s involvement in the space race

Virginia Standards of Learning

  • VUS 12: The student will demonstrate knowledge of United States foreign policy since World War II by
    b) explaining the origins of the Cold War, and describing the Truman Doctrine and the policy of containment of communism, the American role of wars in Korea and Vietnam, and the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe.
  • VUS 14: The student will demonstrate knowledge of economic, social, cultural, and political developments in the contemporary United States by
    a) analyzing the effects of increased participation of women in the labor force.
    c) explaining the media influence on contemporary American culture and how scientific and technological advances affect the workplace, health care, and education.

Historical Context

This lesson may be utilized as an extension of VUS.12 (US foreign policy during the Cold War Era) and as a link to VUS.14 (the changing role of women in the labor force and the effect of technology on modern America). The students should have prior knowledge of the Arms Race (nuclear and conventional) between the super powers and also the Soviet successes with space technology and Sputnik- which meant the US was in a position of playing “catch up” both in terms of technology and image.



Teacher/Student Activity

The students will complete the photo analysis worksheet for the Shepard photo. (Watching the flight of Astronaut Alan Shepard on a television in the Office of the President's Secretary are, from left, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, McGeorge Bundy, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, Arthur Schlesinger, Admiral Arleigh Burke, President Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy on April 5, 1961.) (more)

Extension Activities


  • Informal
    • Summaries of conclusions/answers for #2
    • (more)
  • Formal
    • Students should select one of the following choices, based on interest/learning style or ability level
    • (more)