Great Moments in Space Exploration

Since 1957, humans have experienced great moments in space exploration. Full of repeated trials and errors, space exploration involves dedicated scientists and cosmonauts to research and take risks for the sake of advancements in technology. From the 1957 achievement of Sputnik to today’s Mars rover, Curiosity, many successful discoveries have taken place in human space exploration.


On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I and it became the world’s first satellite to leave Earth and orbit on its elliptical path. The satellite was not very large, only about the size of a beach ball, and marked the beginning of the space age and “space race” between the United States and the Soviet Union. This technological achievement became the first of the Sputnik launches.

Russian dog in space

The Soviet Union experimented with suborbital flights in preparation to research whether living organisms could leave Earth and survive. Laika became the first animal to go into orbit on November 3, 1957, and she lived in space for a few days until her life-support systems lost power. On April 14, 1958, Sputnik 2, which was the spacecraft that carried Laika’s body, fell back into the atmosphere and burned.

Pioneer program observes solar system

Returning images of Venus, the Pioneer Program is a series of unmanned spacecraft missions from 1958 to 1978 by the United States. Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 explored images of the other planets in the solar system. It is one of the greatest moments in space exploration, because the Pioneer Venus Orbiter launched probes into Venus, resulting in its unique, though blurry, images.

Russian man in space

Soviet Union Lieutenant Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin is the first earthling to ever leave the planet. On April 12, 1961, he boarded the spaceship Vostok I and orbited Earth one time for 108 minutes. As one of the greatest moments in history, let alone space exploration, Gagarin’s mission brought back confirmation that the Earth was round and mostly water.

Apollo 11 lands on the moon

The United States achieved its great milestone in space exploration by being the first country to land a man on the moon. Launching Apollo 11 from the Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969, the United States achieved the safe landing and return of Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin to and from the moon. Both men walked the surface of the moon and recorded the experience for American viewers to witness.

Hubble telescope

Since 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope orbits the Earth. It provides a view of the universe from space, better than any ground-based telescopes. It beams thousands of images and provides astronomers fairly accurate data. The discoveries have also allowed scientists to view other solar systems, galaxies and parts of the universe.

GRACE mission monitors Earth

In recent decades, space exploration has slowed down while technology advances to provide safer and more diverse space missions. However, the GRACE mission is part of the NASA program and maps variations in Earth’s gravity field since 2002. This provides insight into environmental changes for scientists throughout the world.

The Mars Curiosity rover lands

On November 26, 2011, the Curiosity began its mission to Mars. Since its landing, it has made discoveries about conditions and life on Mars. It is NASA’s latest program, making use of social media by creating Facebook and Twitter updates on the rover’s behalf.

With the advent of new technology and science, space exploration has plenty of options for the future. From finding new information about the solar system and galaxy to looking for habitable planets in the universe, NASA and other organizations continue to pursue research. In time, human inventions in technology will continue to pave the way of space exploration and discovery.