How the Space Race Affected Pop Culture

During the 1960s, America became highly invested in the space race. This obsession led to many cultural changes throughout the decade and beyond. Since the space race was a projection of the future, it changed pop culture dramatically. 

Movies were the first to change the view of space. “In 1968, one year before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon, the Stanley Kubrick film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ premiered,” the movie was about a space voyage to Jupiter to investigate a type of anomaly (Swapna: 2019). The movie was an outlook into what could come in the future. 2001: A Space Odyssey would build a trend of space movies for years to come. “The movie opened up a new market for science fiction blockbusters like Star Wars, Alien, and close encounters” (Mayer: 2018). Many movies show futuristic technology and themes that act out of reach in past societies. However, the new technology is becoming more and more like the ones shown in the old movies. The highly advanced light-speed technology called “warp speed” featured in the movie Star Trek and Star Wars was once called impossible. Still, scientists are looking to match this technology in today’s society. Hopefully, “one day we may be able to travel between stars, and the inspiration for that dream will be directly traceable back to Star Trek and Star Wars” (Swapna: 2019). The space race had a significant effect on the media and Hollywood during the space race, but its effects are still seen today. 

Figure 1. A picture from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey

Movies were not the only thing that was affected by the space race. The amusement scene drastically changed throughout the 60s and 70s. In the late 60s and 70s, Walt Disney made many changes to the theme park centered around space. One of the first attractions opened was Flight to the Moon, a simulated rocket launch. It captured the moments of pure imagination and fear. Another famous ride was the Astro Orbiter, which featured spinning arms around a column with planets as seats. It acted as the solar system. These rides attracted many people and changed these parks’ culture. Everything was changing to futuristic ideas and technology. “Space Mountain, Disney World’s first “mountain” attraction and first thrill ride, takes riders through space aboard rocket cars flying by stars, meteors, and more.” (Leibacher: 2019). The mountain is still one of the most popular attractions at Disney World today. Walt Disney changed amusement parks’ culture, and space themes took over during those two decades. 

Figure 2. Space Mountain when it first opened up.

Movies and attractions have had a significant impact on pop culture in recent decades and an everlasting impact on society today. The introduction of 2001: A Space Odyssey influenced the media to trend space exploration and establish new technologies that are still introduced today. Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland’s attractions impacted riders and viewers from decades ago to today. 


Krishna, Swapna. “The Many Ways Pop Culture Propels Spaceflight and Vice Versa.” PBS SoCal, January 26, 2021. 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. “How 2001: A Space Odyssey Has Influenced Pop Culture, 50 Years Later.” Vulture, April 4, 2018. 

Herb Leibacher·April 3, 2019, Disney World VacationsDisney’s Animal KingdomDisney’s Hollywood StudiosEpcotMagic Kingdom, and Disney’s Animal KingdomVideos. “The History of Space in Disney World.” World Of Walt, April 3, 2019. 



ohc_admin. “The Space Race and Its Influence on American Design: The Atomic Age.” Ohio History Connection, June 21, 2022. 

“Benefits Stemming from Space Exploration – NASA.” Accessed December 5, 2022. 



The Evolution of Hand Preference Shown by Stone Flakes and Anterior Teeth

During the evolution of the human species, right-handedness has been a predominant trait among individuals. Evidence from stone tools and teeth showed that right-handedness was a dominant trait in hominids. “The human-animal appears to be the only species exhibiting a genetically based preference for the use of one forelimb over another” (Toth 1985:607). In almost all other species, the split between a preferred limb was nearly fifty percent.

Stone tools can show archaeologists the history of a favored limb. Stone flakes were examined, and showed a heavy bias towards “right-oriented flakes” (Toth 1985:610). Archaeologists have inspected many stone flakes and found that when the stone flakes are “struck from a core, the flakes will exhibit areas of the cortex. When such flakes are oriented with their striking platforms upward and the dorsal surface towards the viewer, those with cortex on the right side suggest that the blow came from the right side” (Toth 1985:610). Archaeologist Nicholas Toth studied stone tools in Kenya, and Ambrona, Spain. His results yielded strong evidence of a right-handed preference. In Kenya, the ratio was 57:43 in favor of right-handedness. In Ambrona, the ratio was 61:39 in favor of right-handedness (Toth 1985:611). Since right-handedness is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain, there is an interesting debate on when the human brain developed in different human species and how right-handedness can show that.

Figure 1. Characteristics of flaking stone. Hammerstone hits the cobblestone and Point X and creates a flake scar.

Tools were not the only thing that pointed to a hand preference. Different striations of anterior teeth were studied by scientists. They wanted to see if the anterior teeth were affected by different eating tools. “19 specimens from Atupuerca/Ibeas, constitute the sample of anterior teeth of this Anteneandteral site showing buccal striations” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:404). The striations on these teeth were examined by the naked eye first and then inspected under the microscope. They found “similar orientation in all hominid teeth recovered from… different sites” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:409). Scientists then mirrored the neanderthals by making a mouth guard that fits the mouth. Porcelain teeth were then melted onto the mouth guard to mimic the striations. Then they cut off bite-sized pieces of meat with flint flakes. They found a series of striations that matched with their fossil anterior teeth. When looking at “the location of the striations, orientation; and microscopic features of the striations…the results indicate that they were produced with sharp flint by hominids who normally preferred to use their right hand” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:411).

Figure 2. Striation patterns of right and left-handed users. “A and C indicate a right-handed operator; B and D indicate a left-handed operator” (Bermudez de Castro and Jalvo 1988:410).

Right-handedness can be seen as a predominant trait throughout the history of hominids. Stone tools and teeth are examples of how hominids evolved. Their left hemispheres developed over time for the ability of hand preference to become relevant.



Toth, Nicholas. “Archaeological Evidence for Preferential Right-Handedness in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene, and Its Possible Implications.” Journal of Human Evolution 14, no. 6 (1985): 607–14.

Bermúdez de Castro, JoséMaría, Timothy G. Bromage, and Yolanda Fernández Jalvo. “Buccal Striations on Fossil Human Anterior Teeth: Evidence of Handedness in the Middle and Early Upper Pleistocene.” Journal of Human Evolution 17, no. 4 (1988): 403–12.

Uomini, Natalie T. “The Prehistory of Handedness: Archaeological Data and Comparative Ethology.” Journal of Human Evolution 57, no. 4 (2009): 411–19.


Corballis, Michael C. “From Mouth to Hand: Gesture, Speech, and the Evolution of Right-Handedness.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26, no. 02 (2003).

Westergaard, Gregory C., and Stephen J. Suomi. “Hand Preference for Stone Artefact Production and Tool-Use by Monkeys: Possible Implications for the Evolution of Right-Handedness in Hominids.” Journal of Human Evolution 30, no. 4 (1996): 291–98.