The sky has always been a subject of intrigue and curiosity. Time and again mankind has strived to leave its mark on this immense universe, and after a lot of failures and attempts, we were eventually successful. The history of humans exploring the space around our planet is pretty nebulous, but here are some of the most iconic, breakthrough space missions that paved the way for humanity to excel further, beyond the comfort of our planet.
1. Sputnik 1
On October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 became the first man-made artificial satellite that orbited Earth and marked humankind’s first step into cosmic space. Sputnik burst into flames on 4 January 1958 while reentering Earth’s atmosphere, after completing 1440 orbits of the Earth, which is roughly 70
million kms. It transmitted signals for 21 days before burning up. Many newspapers and magazines heralded the arrival of the Space Age, which it was.
FUN FACT: Anyone possessing a short wave receiver could have heard
2. Apollo 11 Mission
President John F. Kennedy once set an ambitious goal of “Landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth within a decade” and on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to step on the moon, as he climbed down the ladder and proclaimed: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He was accompanied by Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins. The Apollo 11 mission was one of its kind. Armstrong quoted the mission as “a beginning of a new age,” and he was true. Over the next three and a half years, 10 astronauts stepped on the moon after Apollo 11 mission. Gene Cernan, commander of the last Apollo mission said: “We leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace, and hope for all mankind.”
FUN FACT: During an interview, the astronauts remarked about the opaqueness of stars in outer space, and that the space didn’t looked black at all, but looked more like a screen littered with the sharp glow of the distant
stars and galaxy.
3. International Space Station
The international space station is a one of kind, habitable, artificial satellite currently on a low orbit around Earth. It was a collaborative project between NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). Launched in 1998, ISS serves as a space environment research laboratory for the primary fields of research include human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.
FUN FACT: ISS is visible by a naked eye from the surface of Earth.
3. The Voyager Mission
The Voyager remains the one mission that is yet to be duplicated. Two space- crafts, named Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were sent out in outer space to explore the farther planets of our solar system, namely Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. The Voyagers brought in information and imagery that were never seen before, which helped scientists discover and observe the planets under
a new light. The Voyagers cost a whopping USD $1 billion, and one can easily say that was money well-spent. Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in 2012, while Voyager 2 followed suite in 2018.
FUN FACT: It takes about 18 hours for data from the Voyagers to reach our satellites on Earth.
5. Photographing Black Hole
Black Holes are the giants of the universe that holds galaxy together, possessing gravity so strong that nothing, no particles or even electromagnetic radiation such as light—can escape from it. Although the black hole, earlier known as the Black Star, had been a subject of debacle for centuries, it was only recently that its concrete, photographic evidence was procured. Using a string of coordinated telescopes known as the Event Horizon Telescope, which made imaging of far-away objects possible, on April 10, 2019, scientists obtained the first ever image of the black hole M87, at the center of galaxy Messier 87, outlined by emission from hot gas swirling around it under the influence of strong gravity near its event horizon. The team is also working on generating an image of Sagittarius A* from additional observations made by the Event Horizon Telescope.
FUN FACT: M87* contains 6.5 billion solar masses (1 solar mass = the mass of our Sun, approximately 2×10^30 kilograms.)