Then it was a double slap a few years later when they launched the first human into space. We then countered by taking a little stroll on the Moon. Mmm-Kay? The Ruskies can take their chrome volley ball and go home.
The urge to send humans beyond local orbit has waned over the decades. We've been content and technologically able to send machines out deep to explore.
But now there is a resurgence of the space race as China has entered the game, and sent up two successful manned flights, Shenzhou V and VI. They are set to send up a Lunar orbiter by the end of this year called Chang’1. Then a moon lander, then a robotic mission to collect rocks by 2017.
Nasa has plans to land us on the moon again by 2020. It's going to be close.
Right now the big dream is to send people to Mars. The cost is estimated to be around $1 trillion, which means it may take an international effort. Which means multiple flags on the red planet.
Think the guy who wrote this had this kind of stuff in mind?