How Space Exploration Affects Culture & Society

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  • 0:04 Space Exploration
  • 1:11 Inspiration
  • 2:21 Technological Advances
  • 3:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Few events have had more impact on human culture and society than space exploration. Learn the various ways that culture and society have changed as a result of major space exploration events like the moon landing.

Space Exploration

There are few moments in history more iconic than the first moon landing. The pivotal moment when a human stepped foot on another world marked the end of one phase of human achievement and the beginning of a new one. Moments like these have not only expanded public perception but also changed the course of human history.

Humans have always been explorers. The earliest known humans were primarily a hunter-gatherer species based on the continent of Africa. Over time they gradually traveled away from the continent, ultimately colonizing every accessible part of the world. Indeed, some biologists have remarked that, from an evolutionary standpoint, humans did seemingly illogical things in an attempt to explore. This innate curiosity and drive have given people greater knowledge and changed culture and society in countless ways.

People dreamed of reaching the heavens for a long time, but it wasn't until the late 1950s that a serious attempt was made. At first only animals were sent into space, but in 1961 the USSR successfully sent Yuri Gagarin into space aboard the Sputnik 1. He became the first human ever to orbit the Earth.


Yuri Gagarin's flight changed everything. It began an era of space exploration that would inspire generations of people worldwide. The space race refers to the race between the USA and USSR for supremacy in human spaceflight. This competition made it partly a matter of national pride and spurred the USA to spend substantial amounts of money to achieve the goal of putting a man on Earth's moon. Just eight years later, millions watched as Neil Armstrong's famous first step was broadcast on television. However, this impact spread far beyond the national pride of the USA. It inspired thousands to study aeronautics, engineering, and physics.

While space exploration can cause people to reach for the stars, it can also inspire people to focus more on home. Many have commented that following the space race, humans finally had pictures of Earth as seen from the moon, which helped emphasize how small and potentially fragile our home is. It's no accident that the environmental movement became far more significant around the same time. Rather than looking towards exploration, some took the opportunity to focus instead on protecting what we have through natural conservation efforts.

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