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In , the two Piccards — with Jeanette as the pilot — reached 57, feet in a balloon ascension over Lake Erie. In , the Piccards began to tackle the problem of how to make balloons lighter and better suited for high-altitude flight. The couple co-created a concept made from plastic and successfully launched — with the help of reliable 3M tape — a pioneering cellophane balloon from the field of the University of Minnesota football stadium on June 24, Navy to use plastic balloons for stratospheric manned flight tests.

2) MOON RACE Chase to Space

While many of us think of General Mills only as a food company, it also had an engineering division focused on government and military contracts after World War II. Though the Communist Party viewed the backward peasants with undisguised contempt for both ideological and practical reasons stemming from perennially poor harvests , Khrushchev had always felt comfortable in the countryside. He had made agriculture his bailiwick under Stalin, and he had grown up in similar circumstances, tending sheep as a young boy in the tiny farming community of Kalinovka, near Kursk.

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We wiped our noses on our sleeves and kept our trousers up with a piece of string. The endless expanses they covered provided Russia with its main line of defense.


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It was these snow-covered fields, stretching thousands of miles, that had defeated Hitler and Napoleon. Like frozen deserts that thawed into impassable bogs, they had protected Moscow from all its Western enemies. Armies could advance over the plains, but invariably their supply lines would grow thin, the winter would set in, and rural Russia would ravage the invaders. The steppe had always afforded Moscow the ultimate victory. Until now.

Now, in the nuclear and jet age, distance and climate no longer provided a natural limit to foreign depredations. And to Khrushchev, that seemed precisely what the latest U.


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Khrushchev was unsettled by the rise to power of the Republican Party, after more than two decades of Democratic rule. The Republicans represented the American capitalist class, and their electoral battle cry had been hard-line anticommunism. To the Soviets, the emergence of the rich, Russophobe Republicans signaled the arrival of a more combative and ideological adversary in Washington, personified by John Foster Dulles, the dour and deeply religious secretary of state, a man who dressed and talked like a clergyman and yet managed to make millions during the Great Depression.

The USSR, Dulles declared, could never be appeased, because "the Soviets sought not a place in the sun, but the sun itself. Veteran foreign service officers who had accurately predicted Communist gains in Asia were sacked for not displaying "positive loyalty," while foreign allies were warned that they too had better toe the new hard line or be faced with an "agonizing re-appraisal" of U. Dulles's playboy brother Allen, whose hedonism was matched only by his hatred of communism, was put in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency, which rapidly ballooned from an obscure bureaucratic outpost with employees to an aggressive frontline agency with thousands of operatives intent on undermining Soviet power.

Eisenhower, whom the Soviets knew to be ill with a heart condition and increasingly detached from day-to-day affairs of state. It was the unelected and standoffish lawyer, not the popular war hero, who thus dictated U. America's moral duty, Dulles declared, was not merely to stop the spread of communism but to "liberate captive peoples" all over the world. The Eisenhower administration, Dulles pledged, would "roll back" Communist advances in Europe and Asia and send the Soviets packing.

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What's more, he continued, the United States would no longer bother with small local conflicts like Korea to keep communism in check. Henceforth it would prepare for "total war," a phrase coined by Admiral Arthur Radford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and wage an "instant, tremendous, and devastating" nuclear attack on the Soviet Union itself.

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Only a doctrine of "massive retaliation" promised "to create sufficient fear in the enemy to deter aggression. The only way for Khrushchev to guarantee Soviet security was to develop his own massive retaliation capabilities.

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But he lagged far behind his American rivals. Nuclear weapons production in America had been ramped up to an industrial, assembly-line scale under the Eisenhower administration. By the United States had amassed 2, atomic and thermonuclear bombs, a tenfold increase from , representing an arsenal nearly twenty times greater than the Soviet stockpile. As Dulles's doctrine evolved, the number of warheads would jump to 3, by late , double to 7, by , hit 12, by , and top 23, two years later. Meanwhile, billions of dollars were being poured into an armada of heavy long-range bombers to deliver the nuclear payloads.

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By the air force bomber fleet had almost doubled in size, and the Strategic Air Command kept a third of its 1, B long-range bombers on the runway at all times, fueled and loaded with their nuclear cargo. In January , LeMay scrambled almost all his bombers in a simulated nuclear attack.

In another exercise, Operation Powerhouse, his planes flew nearly one thousand simultaneous sorties from more than thirty bases around the world to intimidate Moscow. In a few weeks, he would launch yet another exercise called Operation Home Run--reconnaissance versions of his B Stratojets would fly from Thule, Greenland, over the North Pole, and into Siberia to probe for gaps in Soviet radar defenses. The mission would culminate with a squadron of the metallic silver RBs, their undersides painted white to reflect the flash of a nuclear blast, flying in attack formation in broad daylight several hundred miles into Soviet territory.

The Soviets would have no way of knowing that the bombers were not armed, or that an attack was not imminent. And that would be the point of the exercise: to expose the USSR's defenselessness against a polar attack and to drive home the message that the United States could strike Russia at will. LeMay calculated that 77 million casualties could be expected, including 60 million dead. And he was about to get an even bigger bomber, the intercontinental B Stratofortress, which was just entering into service.


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The giant plane could carry 70, pounds of thermonuclear ordnance over a distance of 8, miles at a speed of more than miles an hour. With the B, the Americans no longer even needed their staging bases in Europe and Asia to attack Russia. They could do it from the comfort of home without missing more than a meal.

Most distressing for Khrushchev, he had no way of striking back.

Hidden Figures – how the space race inspired a generation

The biggest Soviet bomber in service, the Tupolev Tu4, was an aging knockoff of the propeller-driven Boeing B with a 2,mile range and no midair refueling capacity. It could not effectively reach U. The Tu4 would either run out of gas as it approached the American eastern seaboard or crash in the coastal states of New England. My dad ran a garage so I was also very practical and used to help him out regularly. His influence, combined with my natural curiosity, kept me engaged right throughout secondary school, and I became the first person in my family to go to university. This was a great way to learn the theoretical aspects whilst also applying them in the workplace — and being paid!

There are so many exciting roles available in engineering — my own career has enabled me to travel the world and work in friendly teams with some truly amazing people. You can watch a video of the event here.