10 of the Biggest Space Milestones In The Past Century

For those with an interest in astronomy and space, April marked a special month as a total eclipse took place over North America. Not only was it a fabulous experience for astronomy enthusiasts, but for anyone with a passing interest in space and beyond. With that said, Astronomy Day seems perfectly poised to take place on April 13 yearly.

If you want to commemorate Astronomy Day in a big way, why not spend some time doing a little reading and research? There have been so many milestones where space exploration, knowledge, and science are concerned – mankind has come a long way.

To help spark your interest in Astronomy Day here’s a look at 10 of the biggest space milestones of the past 100 years.

Mankind Launches the First Ever Artificial Earth Satellite

Space satellite orbiting the earth.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Andrei Armiagov

There have been discoveries and big events related to space before this one, but many mark this point as the shift in space exploration. On Oct. 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into space making it the first artificial Earth satellite to do so. You can also point to this moment as the start of the space race, with countries racing to be the first at all kinds of subsequent missions, discoveries, and technologies.

Fast forward to today and the space race continues, it has just shifted and in many ways become more competitive and high-tech.

The Far Side of the Moon Is Captured in Photos

The near side of the Moon and the far side of the Moon.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Claudio Caridi

Here’s a really exciting event that took place on Oct. 7, 1959, only two years after the first artificial Earth satellite was launched. The first pictures of the far side of the Moon were captured by the Soviet Union’s Luna 3. The images that came back were awe-inspiring and wondrous, helping to create even more interest in space exploration.

Humans are Launched Into Space

Landing Module "Vostok" Yuri Gagarin. Exhibition "Russian Space". Moscow
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Olga Zinovskaya

After the first artificial Earth satellite was launched into space, it seemed like the next logical and natural move was to launch humans into space. It was Yuri Gagarin who became the first human to go into space. Gagarin was from the Soviet Union, which meant once again the Soviets became the first in terms of space discovery. Gagarin’s mission had him orbit Earth for a singular time in April 1961.

The First Humans to Walk on the Moon

View of Moon limb with Earth rising on the horizon.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Elena11

Speaking of the space race, the Americans weren’t going to sit back and let the Soviet Union take over space exploration and discovery, which is why they were the first to land a human on the Moon. It was on July 20, 1969, that Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin made their landing. They were the first humans to step foot on the Moon and marked the beginning of many other Moon landings. Who can forget the now famous words of Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the moon remarking, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

From 1969 to 1972 there were 12 Americans that landed and walked on the Moon spread out over six different missions.

This Isn’t the Only Solar System

Solar system planets.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Vadim Sadovski

The solar system is massive, almost too big to even comprehend. And today we understand that the solar system isn’t the be-all and end-all and that there are other planets outside our solar system. It took until 1992 however, to confirm this fact. It was then that a planet outside our solar system was finally detected.

Black Holes Do Exist

A deep space black hole galaxy.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Sahara Prince

A black hole is known to be a void. It’s a concept most people are familiar with, and today we know that black holes are real and that they exist. But did you know this wasn’t the case for a long time?

Scientists suspected and had theories about black holes, but it wasn’t until 1971 that they got their first type of evidence. There were emissions of X-rays that were coming from what was suspected to be a black hole. This was the first black hole detected, and it took more than 30 years to confirm it.

The International Space Station Was Launched in 1998

International space station on orbit of Earth planet.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dima Zel

On Nov. 20, 1998, the world tuned in, held its breath and hoped for the best as the International Space Station (ISS) was launched. It was the first of its kind and brought together several participating countries which were Japan, the U.S., Canada, Russia, and some countries in the European Space Agency.

Planning, building, and launching the space station were complex, to say the least, and there were plenty of naysayers. But on that historic day, the ISS became a beacon of hope, strength, and pride. Even today it is still being used to house humans who are working in space conducting research.

Surface of Mars Is Seen for the First Time

Mars planet isolated in black background 3d illustration
Image Credit: Shutterstock / sciencepics

Today people can pour through all kinds of incredible photos of Mars and start to get a sense of what the planet looks like. For a long time, Mars was nothing more than a mystery. It was on July 20, 1976, that the first pictures from the surface of Mars were transmitted to Earth. These were captured by the U.S. launched Viking 1 – which was an instrumented orbiter and lander.

First Spacecraft to Return from Space

The launch of the space shuttle against the sky, fire and smoke.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Artsiom P

Flying spacecraft to space, and then essentially writing it off became a rather expensive venture. And while it took a long time to succeed in this scope, eventually the Americans were able to build a space shuttle that could launch into space and then return – allowing it to be partially re-used. This was the Space Shuttle Columbia. The mission took place from April 12-14 1981.

Eventually four of these space shuttles – called orbiters – were made. They were Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, and Atlantis and all were operational. Many still remember the tragic end of Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986, where it exploded not long after take-off, killing all seven astronauts on board.

Private Spaceflight as a Tourism Option?

Cupola porthole on space station.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dima Zel

Most recently a trend that has hit all the news cycles is private spaceflight as a tourism option. For enough money, private citizens are getting the chance to fly into space and return to Earth. It was unthinkable just a few decades ago, but this is how much space exploration has advanced.

There are still plenty of risks with private spaceflight and questions about the ethics involved. Watch for this trend to continue and likely evolve even more.

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