As the famous saying goes, “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” This is definitely true. Humans, for the longest time, have had the biggest fascination with space exploration. There’s just something so beautiful and profound about the unknown and unexplored that makes us want to catch even a glimpse of it. Whatever the reason may be, we humans have had some pretty impressive feats when it comes to the history of space flight. Since April 12 is International Day of Human Space Flight, you have to check these out!
First Satellite in Space
On October 4, 1957, the world’s first satellite, Sputnik I, was the first man-made object to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. This was a pivotal moment in the history of space flight and signified the USSR’s pioneering leadership in the field. This was only the first of many space exploration missions to come.
Monkeys in Space
It was on May 28, 1959 when two monkeys, Able and Baker, became the first living beings to survive space flight. They were sent to space by the US on a Jupiter missile. Prior to this feat, a dog named Laika was also sent to space in 1957 on the USSR’s Sputnik 2. Sadly, she died only a few hours into the mission from overheating and panic.
First Man in Space
The USSR sent Yuri Gagarin into space on April 12, 1961. He made a single orbit of Earth in 108 minutes. Less than a month after this, the US retaliated by launching Alan Shepard into space on May 5, 1961. There’s nothing bad about a little friendly competition, right?
The Decision To Go To the Moon
On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress about the importance of investing in space exploration. It was at this moment when he expressed his hopes to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely to Earth before the decade passes. “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space, and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish,” he said.
First Woman in Space
On June 16, 1963, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman sent to space by the Soviet Union. She circled the Earth 49 times in 3 days.
Walking in Space
The first-ever spacewalk was accomplished by Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. Within minutes of stepping out in space, his suit expanded due to the zero-pressure conditions (yikes!). In order to squeeze himself back into the spaceship, he had to release a valve to release some of the pressure.
Landing on the Moon
President JFK’s address to congress came true on July 20, 1969 when the US launched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin onto the moon. Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, uttering the famous line “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
Free-Flying in Space
Zero gravity chambers on Earth are lots of fun! But actual free-flying in space is just terrifying! Not for Bruce McCandless who became the first person to spacewalk without being attached to the spacecraft. And he did it for a whole 90 minutes, guys!
First Space Tourist
In 2001, a billionaire entrepreneur named Dennis Tito became the first space tourist to fund his own trip into space. He paid a whopping $20 million for eight days aboard the International Space Station. So if you have $20 million lying around, you now know what to do with it!
In 2011, the ISS got a cool new member in Robonaut 2, the first-ever humanoid robot in space.
Life on Saturn?
In 2017, NASA’s scientists discovered that underneath the icy surface of one of Saturn’s moons, Enceladus, a chemical reaction takes place. This is a sign that it could also support alien life.
A New Planetary System
In the same year, NASA discovered a planetary system, TRAPPIST-1, with seven Earth-sized planets orbiting around a red dwarf star. Three of those planets are in what’s called a “habitable zone” which means these could possibly have liquid water and a life-supporting atmosphere.
The Red Planet
The United Arab Emirates and China recently launched their own Mars missions. China’s Tianwen-1 is expected to land on Mars mid-May this year (if it survives). The UAE’s Hope Probe is now on its science orbit around Mars, and expects to start data gathering by April 14, 2021.
Humans Living in Space?
Over the last century, everything we’ve learned about Mars suggests that it was once capable of sustaining life. Unfortunately, the planet’s atmosphere is wrapped in carbon dioxide and occasionally, methane gas. The US recently launched its Perseverance Rover. Among its goals is to determine whether Mars was (or is) inhabited. All of this of course is laying the groundwork for possibly sending humans to the Red Planet.