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Saturday, February 9, 2013

Through The Ages - Card: First Space Flight


This is a series of blogs written about each card in Through The Ages.  To find more, simply click on "Cards" label.

First Space Flight

History
The drive to reach space and see what is out there seems to be a primal drive in the human race.  In 1957 Russia hoisted a satellite into earth orbit: Sputnik 1.  However, Sputnik 1 not only launched a piece of metal into orbit, it launched two great superpowers into a race.  The Soviet Union and the United States were pitted against each in a race for dominance of the skies.  Who would be the first to make it away from our home planet.

The United States initiated crash course program with two aims: put a man into orbit, and to do it before the Soviet Union.  With an emphasis on speed, they named the program: Project Mercury.  Begun in 1958, the Project worked at breakneck speed to design, test and prepare a human for space flight.  The rocket was designed in less than a year.  Manufacturing, testing and assembly began shortly thereafter.  On May 5, 1961 the program achieved its first goal of putting a man into space.

But the program failed to beat the Soviets.

Unlike the US, the Soviets classified their rocketry program under military objectives.  As such, they were worked on in secret and many results were not disclosed except for success.  In particular, setbacks were kept hidden and not realized until after Mikhail Gorbachev released them with his "Glasnost".

Despite their secretive nature, the Soviets overcame the same hurdles the US did and more.  A month after Sputnik 1, on Nov. 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with the first recorded animal on board, a dog named Laika.  Their success showed human flight was possible, but it also showed Space Travel was fraught with danger.  Due to an equipment failure, Laika overheated and died in space, becoming the first casualty of Space Exploration.
Picture of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin -  First Human in Space
(courtesy of NASA Archives)

On April 12, 1961, less than a month before the first US manned space flight, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin achieved earth orbit and returned to land intact.  And so with the launch of Vostok 1, the Soviet's "won" the race to space.  Yuri circled the earth only once, but he did so at an altitude of over 200 miles.

Although our story ends here, the Space Race grew and expanded beyond the simple "First Space Flight".  It became a race to the moon, to establish a space station in space, and from there... who knows?  As a record of note, the picture on the card is of the Space Shuttle, which was not built until 30 years after Yuri's historic flight.
Game Stats
This card generates the most average culture of all the Age III wonders.  Despite this, it is the second most popular Age III wonder, losing out to Fast Food Chains.  This is interesting because looking at the charge below, First Space Flight provides a 74% chance the player is in first or second place, whereas Fast Food Chain is only 60%.  From this and our previous analysis, we can determine First Space Flight is mostly chosen by the player in 1st or 2nd place.
Strategies, Combos and Opinions
Being a purely culture generated "end game" card, there are no combinations for this card beyond the obvious.
Opinions
It is important to realize the card counts all technology cards.  This is all cards which were "bought" with Science and are still in play.  Thus, government cards, military technologies, and building upgrades all count towards this score.  Unfortunately, as seen by our previous analysis, by this time the gains from First Space Flight are not significant.  In other words, they secure the player's position, but rarely decide the winner.  First Space Flight, if your in the lead in Culture, should you secure the win.  If not in the lead, it is unlikely to put you in the lead, but it is likely to boost your final positioning.

References
1 http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/about/history/spacehistory_toc.html
2 http://library.thinkquest.org/TQ0312074/history.htm
3 http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4001/app1.htm
4 http://www.astronautix.com/articles/sovstory.htm
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