Relive the excitement of man’s first steps on the moon and the long journey it took to get there with 20 new hours of out of this world programming on KCET's “Summer of Space" Watch out for “American Experience: Chasing the Moon” and a KCET-exclusive first look at "Blue Sky Metropolis," four one-hour episodes that examine Southern California’s role in the history of aviation and aerospace.
After the Second World War, the Soviet Union and the United States entered a period of heightened antagonism. From Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech in 1946 to the first successful manned space flight in 1961, innovations in flight and rocketry where evolving at a breakneck speed as the two world powers struggled to stay ahead of the other. The moon was in reach but so were potentially hostile intercontinental ballistic missiles. It was a time of fear but also a time of great hope for humankind. As jet propulsion made plane travel commonplace, a new American obsession took hold — space travel.
See how Hollywood and the aerospace industries affected each other in Southern California. Watch this clip.
1946 Howard Hughes begins work on guided air-to-air missile, the first of its kind.
1947 Chuck Yeager breaks sound barrier at soon-to-be Edwards Air Force Base.
1948 North American Aviation introduces B-45 jet bomber, the first aircraft to use jet propulsion.
1949 Soviet Union successfully detonates an atomic bomb.
1950 Korean War begins. Lockheed, Northrop, North American Aviation and Convair’s fighter jets go into production.
1952 Former Nazi, Wernher Von Braun publishes popular articles on space travel. Despite his troubled past, he is regarded as the “Father of Rocket Science.”
1953 Space aliens attack Southern California in “War of the Worlds.” The film was inspired by H.G. Wells’ 1897 novel.
1953 Lockheed Constellation makes first scheduled coast-to-coast passenger flight.
1954 Walt Disney begins production on a television special about space travel, featuring Wernher Von Braun. Approximately 42 million people tune in to watch the broadcast in April 1955.
1954 Air Force created nuclear missiles division on West Coast.
1954 Convair receives contract for Atlas missile. It is capable of transporting a nuclear warhead more than 6,000 miles.
1955 Disneyland opens.
1955 Lockheed U-2 spy plane flies for the first time.
1957 Vandenberg Air Force Base is created as a space launch center.
1957 Soviets launch Sputnik I.
1958 The Douglas DC-8 jetliner, Boeing 707 and Lockheed Electra debut. Such planes usher in a new era of commercial airline travel.
1958 U.S. launches its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
1958 NASA is established.
1959 The first American astronauts are announced. They are dubbed the Mercury 7.
1961 USSR’s Yuri Gagarin becomes first human to fly in outer space.