The development of ballistic missiles, first used by Germany toward the end of World War II, paved the way for the launch vehicles that would fuel a space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. The space race was then followed by an era of space cooperation, highlighted by the International Space Station.
Human space exploration helps to address fundamental questions about our place in the Universe and the history of our solar system. From Yuri Gagarin to the first man on the Moon and the robot that landed on a comet, let us look at some milestones in space exploration.
Moscow launches the first satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957, ushering in the Cold War tussle for the cosmos. The beach ball-sized aluminium sphere takes 98 minutes to orbit the Earth and sends back the first message from space, simple “beep-beep-beep” radio signals. A month later Sputnik 2 carries the first living being to fully orbit the Earth, a small street dog called Laika. She dies after a few hours.
Yugi Gagarin, first man (1961)
On April 12, 1961 Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space, completing a single, 108-minute orbit aboard Vostok-1. Twenty-three days later Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space when he makes a 15-minute trip.
On June 16, 1963 cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space. It takes a full 40 years for the old Cold War rivals to be joined in space by a third country, when China sends up Yang Liwei onboard Earth orbiter Shenzhou 5.
Armstrong on the Moon (1969)
is the first man to step onto the Moon on July 21, 1969, Buzz Aldrin joining him around 20 minutes later. Between 1969 and 1972, 10 astronauts, all American, walked on the Moon as part of NASA’s Apollo programme.
Space station (1971)
The Soviet Union launches the first orbital space station, Salyut 1, on April 19, 1971. Another Russian space station, Mir, follows. It is brought back to Earth in 2001 after 15 years in orbit. Construction of the still-operating International Space Station (ISS) starts in 1998. The biggest man-made structure in space, it orbits Earth 16 times a day.
Spacecraft on Mars (1976)
US spacecraft Viking 1 becomes the first to successfully land on Mars on July 20, 1976 and sends back images of the Red Planet. The robot Opportunity explored Mars between 2004 and 2018, with NASA’s Curiosity Rover still active there. About 40 missions are sent to Mars, more than half of which fail.
1978- GPS Satellite
A GPS satellite is a satellite navigation used by the NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS). The first satellite in the system, Navstar 1, was launched on 22 February 1978. The GPS satellite constellation is operated by the 2d Space Operations Squadron (2SOPS) of Space Delta 8 (formerly the 50th Space Wing Operations Group) of the United States Space Force.
The GPS satellites circle the Earth at an altitude of about 20,000 km (12,427 miles) and complete two full orbits every day.
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