My friend Alexei Bezouglyi has sent me copies of the photos of me with Belka and Strelka, the first mammals to orbit the Earth and return safely. On their deaths they were stuffed and placed on display in Moscow, just so someday an American science fiction writer could get his picture taken with them.
As Marianne likes to say (quoting the comic book Planetary): "It's a strange world. Let's keep it that way."
And if I can be serious for a moment . . .
The history of the space race, as written by Americans goes: We got to the Moon first. We won.
But the reason we declared that the first nation to the Moon would win was that the USSR had already put the first satellite in orbit, put the first man in space, and sent up the first vehicle to return photos from the dark side of the Moon. We desperately needed something we could win. If the Soviet Union had reached the Moon before us, there would probably be Americans on Mars today.
Not to belittle the American accomplishments in space, which are genuine and well-documented. Just to give credit where it's due.