This week’s word of the week is actually two words, Space, as a noun, and NASA. Predictably, both words have a major peak in usage in 1966, at the height of the space race between the United States and Russia. This was only three years before Neil Armstrong and the rest of the Apollo 11 crew would become the first human beings to walk on the surface of the moon. Several things happened around this time that could have provoked an increased public interest in spaceflight. First, on January 14th Sergei Korolev, chief engineer for the Soviet space program, died suddenly from surgery complications. This proved an unexpected blow to the program, as Korolev had been by far the most influential Russian engineer in the field for the preceding twenty years. Second, on February 3rd the Soviet ship Luna 9 made the first soft landing on the moon, although this mission was unmanned. Third, on March 16th the crew of the American mission Gemini 8 docked with the rocket Agena in orbit, the first orbital docking in history. Only 6 months later, on January 27th 1967, all three astronauts for the American Apollo 1 mission died in an accidental fire that broke out in the vacuum sealed cockpit of their rocket during a routine launchpad test.



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