Since the dawn of time, our species have always wondered and looked up to the night sky dreaming about space. As we entered the 20th century, mankind was able to develop rockets that were strong enough to overcome the forces of gravity and achieve orbital velocities. In turn, this milestone paved the way for mankind’s dreams of space exploration to become a reality. The brilliant minds and engineers who were behind these feats deserve a ton of credit!

 

Here’s a short overview of our species’ progress toward reaching space!

 

A Short Detour

As we said, the brilliant minds and engineers who envisioned rockets for space exploration deserve a ton of credit for their ideas. However, it was in the 1930s and 1940s when space exploration took a bit of a detour. Nazi Germany eventually saw the possibilities of using rockets not for exploration but for warfare. In WWII, Germany attacked London using V2 missiles with 200-mile-range capabilities. It arched over 60 miles high over the English Channel at record-breaking speeds of more than 3,500 mph.

After WWII, using rockets as weapons became the norm as the United States and Soviet Union founded their own missile programs. However, space exploration ideologies would have a bittersweet ending. In 1957, the Soviet Union was able to launch the first artificial satellite named Sputnik 1 into orbit. Four years later, they were able to send a man to orbit the Earth in Vostok 1. The man was Yuri Gagarin, and he became the first man to orbit the Earth. The flight lasted 108 minutes, and he was able to reach an altitude of 327 kilometers.

The United States Joins the Effort to Explore Space

The United States space program was right on par with the Soviets. The United States was able to send their first satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit in 1958. Three years later, their space program was able to send an American into space, and Alan Shepard took the credit for being the first American to fly into space. A year later, in 1962, the US made headlines once again as John Glenn’s historic flight allowed him to orbit the Earth, becoming the first American to do so.

The Space Race & Landing on The Moon

It was clear that the United States and the Soviet Union were in a close contest as to who can make significant progress in their space programs. Eventually, the goal and focus shifted to the moon as both countries conceptualized ideas that would allow them to land safely on the moon’s surface. The United States’ goal was to land a man on the moon while being able to return safely to Earth in just a decade. It was a goal set by John F. Kennedy in 1961.

Before the 60s ended, an American man was able to land on the moon, and it was astronaut Neil Armstrong who received credit for being the first man who took the first steps on the moon. After Armstrong’s achievement, six Apollo missions were set as the United States explored the moon between the years 1969 and 1972.

 

The Moon and Beyond

Once men were able to land on the moon, the curiosity about space got even deeper. By the 1970s, space programs sent out unmanned satellites that mapped the surface of nearby planets, including Mars. The Mariner spacecraft was the first spacecraft that was tasked to map Mars’ surface. Before the decade ended, a spacecraft named “Voyager” was launched, and it sent back breathtaking images of Saturn, Jupiter, their moons, and their rings.

Both Russia and the United States deserve credit for making space explorations what it is today. Both worked hand-in-hand in solving and answering space-related questions. They collaborated in a human-spaceflight mission called the Apollo Soyuz Test Project, and it was the first space mission comprising both Americans and Russians.

 

The International Space Station

The Russians and the Americans deserve more credit for setting aside their differences and working towards one common goal. Through their collaboration, the International Space Station became a reality, and it’s become a research laboratory in low Earth orbit. Of course, some other collaborators and partners contributed to its design and construction.

It’s certainly a refreshing feat as former competitors found themselves now working together. The ISS has been continuously occupied since Expedition 1’s arrival back in November of 2000. It’s also constantly serviced by a good number of visiting spacecrafts.

 

The ISS has been visited by astronauts, cosmonauts, and even space tourists from a total of 17 different nations.

 

The Future of Man’s Space Exploration

The progress of space programs and space exploration today has reached areas that our ancestors only dreamed about. Today, the focal point of modern space exploration is to continue to learn about our neighboring red planet, Mars. Eventually, manned space missions into Mars will become a reality, and it will mark another milestone in our space exploration efforts.