Released: February 22, 2009

Retired: February 23, 2009

VFK Early History of American Space Exploration Quest


The Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite named Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957. This momentous event triggered the "Sputnik crisis" and the beginning of the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Being the first country to reach space was the primary focus of both countries. On today's quest, we will explore the history of the space program in America and the amazing technology behind our adventure into space.

Your reward for completing this quest will be 1,000 credits, and a Mechanical Solar System!


Name Price Location Released/Retired Photo Notes
1000 Credits Released: May 22, 2008 Credits
Mechanical Solar System Quest Prize VFK Early History of American Space Exploration Quest Released: February 22, 2009

Retired: February 23, 2009

Item 105 1 Animated Item


1. The U.S. Congress reacted to the launch of Sputnik 1 with alarm. If the Soviet Union possessed the ability to launch a satellite into space, the security of the US was in danger. Congress wanted the US to take immediate action. However, President Dwight D. Eisenhower recommended more rational measures. Due to this disagreement on approach, the US debated the issue for several months. The result of the debate was an agreement that created a federal agency to conduct all the non-military related development in space. One agency which was created at this time was a similar agency to NASA and later had its programs transferred to NASA. What was its name?

  • NACA
  • GRP
  • ABMA

2. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) was created to be responsible for creating new technology for the military. It was established in 1958 in order to keep the US military technology ahead of other countries that were a threat to the US. The mission of this agency was "to prevent technological surprise" by other countries, and instead be sure that we surprised our enemies. Go to outside the Marshall's office in the Wild West and say a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Do not go where the path may lead," finish the quote by saying: "go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

3. The beginning of the US space program was a reaction to the Soviet satellite Sputnik 1. However, the original event motivating the launching of the Soviet satellite and the US satellite Explorer 1 was an international scientific effort called the "International Geophysical Year" (IGY). The IGY sparked the creation of the US Earth Satellite program in 1954. This program was a joint US Navy/US Army project called "Project Orbiter" whose goal was to launch a scientific satellite into orbit for the IGY. This project was rejected in favor of the Navy's "Project Vanguard." When Sputnik 1 was launched, the Project Orbiter program was revived in order to better compete with the Soviet Union in the Space Race, and was renamed the "Explorer Program". What was the time period of the IGY?

  • December 31, 1957 to July 1, 1958
  • July 1, 1957 to July 1, 1958
  • December 1, 1957 to December 1, 1958
  • July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958

4. The idea of the IGY was originally suggested at an informal meeting of top scientists. It was suggested that with all the development work in such scientific technology as rockets, computers and radar, that it would be a perfect time for the IGY. The IGY was planned for the period of maximum solar activity and encompassed the earth sciences of cosmic rays, aurora, geomagnetism, airglow, gravity, ionospheric physics, precision mapping, meteorology, oceanography, seismology and solar activity. The IGY event motivated the development of the scientific satellites by both the Soviet Union and the US. Go to the first English countryside room and say the words spoken by James T. Kirk of the "Starship Enterprise" at the start of the episodes of the popular TV series Star Trek. Say, "Space, the final frontier."

5. The Explorer Program used the Explorer 1, designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was powered by the Jupiter-C rocket, modified to accommodate a satellite by the ABMA. The rocket, which had already been flight tested, was modified into the "Juno I" (the entire project was completed within 84 days). Despite the fast development of the Explorer 1, the US was still not ready to launch a satellite. While the US developed its projects, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 2 on November 3, 1957. The US Navy had Vanguard TV3 ready to launch (before Explorer 1) on December 6, 1957. However, the launch failed and the rocket exploded just feet from the ground. What date did the US launch Explorer 1?

  • December 31, 1957
  • January 20, 1958
  • January 31, 1958
  • February 15, 1958

6. The Explorer 1 project became the first man made satellite put in orbit by the US. The next step of the US Space program was to combine the efforts of the different military departments under the "National Aeronautics and Space Act". President Eisenhower signed the act on July 29, 1958, creating NASA. When NASA began operations on October 1, 1958, it included the 4 laboratories of the "National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics", a 46 year old agency. It also drew technology from the German Rocket Program headed by Wernher von Braun. Additionally it included the Army Ballistic Missile Agency, as well as the Naval Research Laboratory. Go to the lobby of Audubon's Wildlife Adventure Game and say a quote by Robert H. Goddard, "The dreams of yesterday are," finish the quote by saying "the hopes of today and the reality of tomorrow."

7. The pressure of the Space Race with the Soviet Union set the goals for NASA. During the Cold War, NASA researched human spaceflight. Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program in the US, was focused on putting a man in orbit around Earth. The project, which ran from 1959 to 1963, launched the Mercury-Atlas 6 on February 20, 1962, and was the first Mercury flight to accomplish their objectives. The capsule had just enough space for a single crew member and featured a sophisticated Launch Escape System. How many times did they need to use the Launch Escape System?

  • Once
  • 3 Times
  • 5 Times
  • The System was never needed.

8. There were 20 production spacecraft ordered by NASA from McDonnell Aircraft Company. They were numbered 1 through 20. Five of the spacecraft were not flown, two unmanned test flights were destroyed, one sank at sea, and some were modified after aborted launches and modified for longer missions. If they were modified, they were given a letter after their number. Some of the spacecraft were modified twice. The Mercury program used three boosters: Little Joe, Redstone and Atlas. They included 20 robotic launches, four of which had primates as pilots. Go to the first Australian Outback room in Australia and say the words of Arthur C. Clark, say, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is magic."

9. From a pool of 110 military pilots, the first Americans to go into space were chosen. The original group of men met certain physical requirements and were all former military test pilots. They officially became astronauts on April 9, 1959. The Mercury program selected Malcolm Scott Carpenter, Leroy Gordon "Gordo" Cooper, Jr., John Herschel Glenn, Jr., Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom, Walter Marty "Wally" Schirra, Jr., Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr., and Donald Kent "Deke" Slayton, for astronauts. Which astronaut was grounded in 1962 because of an irregular heartbeat?

  • Cooper
  • Schirra
  • Carpenter
  • Slayton

10. These Mercury astronauts, known as the "Mercury seven" trained in Hampton, Virginia. Several local bridges were named after the astronauts, but one of the most interesting memorials to these men was the popular 1960's TV show, the "Thunderbirds." This series featured Jeff Tracy, who created "International Rescue", an organization dedicated to rescuing people in mortal danger. His sons, Scott, Virgil, Alan, John and Gordon, were all named after the Mercury astronauts. Go to the Medieval blacksmith's room in Medieval Age and say the words of Dave Scott, Commander of Apollo 15, say "Man must explore, and this is exploration at its greatest."



2. Go to the U.S. Marshalls and say, "go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

3. July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958

4. Go to the first room of the English Countryside and say, "Space the final frontier."

5. January 31, 1958

6. Go to Audubon's Wildlife Adventure and say, "the hopes of today and the reality of tomorrow."

7. The System was never needed.

8. Go to the first Australian Outback room and say, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is magic."

9. Slayton

10. Go to the Medieval Blacksmith and say, "Man must explore, and this is exploration at its greatest."

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