The desire to explore space has led to many incredible developments. In 1969, humans first landed on the Moon. Twenty years later, all the planets in the solar system had been explored by spacecraft. Now, the next era of space exploration is beginning, with ambitious plans to expand space tourism and send humans to Mars.
First satellite (1957)
The Soviet Union triggers the Space Age with the launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, into space. Sputnik 1 takes about 98 minutes to travel around Earth. Its success shocks the US, causing the country to speed up its own space program.
Images of Mars (1965)
The first close-up photos of the planet Mars are beamed back to Earth. Taken by US spacecraft Mariner 4, they aren’t quite what the world is expecting. Rather than showing aliens on Mars as people hoped, the grainy pictures show barren, gray craters.
Mariner 4: This spacecraft records images as it flies past Mars. It is the first craft to photograph a planet other than Earth.
Mission to Mars (1976)
NASA’s Viking 1 lands on the surface of Mars after a 10-month journey. It is the first spacecraft to not only land on another planet, but also take photos and collect data that can be sent back to Earth.
Space telescope (1990)
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is launched, and becomes the most famous space observatory ever flown. It can observe objects more than 13.4 billion light-years from Earth.
Hubble space telescope: This historic telescope circles Earth every 96 minutes.
Interstellar space exploration (2012)
NASA’s Voyager 1 probe is the first artificial object to travel to the edge of the solar system and head off into interstellar space (the space between stars). No spacecraft has gone there before.
Golden record: Voyager 1 carries a record of sounds and images of life on Earth, in case of encounters with aliens.
Comet landing (2014)
The Philae is the first spacecraft ever to land on the surface of a speeding comet. As it hurtles toward the comet, it sends back information about the solar system and life on Earth.
Jupiter mission (2016)
Juno travels more than 1.7 billion miles (2.7 billion km) from Earth to Jupiter, a giant planet with a diameter around 11 times the size of that of Earth. Juno investigates how Jupiter formed 4.6 billion years ago.
Mission to Saturn ends (2017)
Launched in 1997, Cassini ends its 20-year mission exploring Saturn and its moons. The craft breaks up as it plows into Saturn’s cloud tops in a dramatic end to one of NASA’s most successful missions.