Exploring space

‘Firsts’ of Space

Middle of 20th century was revolutionary in terms of space exploration. Starting from 1957 there have been many firsts in space. Ever since then there has been no looking back !! Let’s explore the events as they happened for the first time in history of space.

On 4 October 1957, Russia( Then known as Soviet Union or USSR) launched Sputnik 1 – first man-made craft to orbit the Earth. Sputnik 1 was the first artificial Earth satellite. Since then, thousands of satellites have been launched to orbit around the Earth.

Sputnik 1

Shortly after Sputnik 1 was launched into space, On November 3, 1957, Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 was sent into space with the first living being in orbit. Do you have any idea who it was? It was a dog named Laika. For months, Laika was trained to be onboard Sputnik 2. Sadly, Laika didn’t come back alive. It became the first animal to orbit the Earth – as well as the first animal to die in orbit.

Sputnik 2(left), Laika, the dog(right)

On April 12, 1961, Russia again pulled off a feat by sending first human in space – a Soviet  pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. He was launched in space aboard Vostok 1 as a part of the Vostok programme of space exploration. He successfully completed his orbit around Earth. He was awarded Hero of the Soviet Union – the nation’s highest honour.

Yuri Gagarin

On 18 March 1965, the first human ever walked into the space. Russian Aleksei Leonov’s spacewalk lasted 12 minutes and nine seconds. At the end of the spacewalk, Leonov’s spacesuit inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he could not re-enter the airlock. He had to open a valve to release some pressure to get back inside the capsule. Today, learning from past experiences, astronauts are able to spacewalk for hours without any trouble!!

Alot was learnt about Earth from above mentioned space odysseys, and scientists were getting curious to know about the Moon. On February 3, 1966 , Russia’s Luna 9 spacecraft was sent on moon. The spacecraft was first to achieve a smooth and steady automatic landing on the Moon(also known as a soft landing). Before this, any planetary body other than Earth, had not been explored. Luna 9 also for the first time transmitted photographs to Earth.

Luna-9 spacecraft

After Russia’s dominance over space exploration for years, on 20 July 1969,  America’s spacecraft Apollo 11carrying Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the on the surface of Moon. Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on moon. Neil Armstrong stepped on the surface of the moon and spoke his famous words, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Apollo 11

Neil Armstrong

First space station of any kindSalyut 1, was launched by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1971.  A space station is a spacecraft capable of supporting a crew that intends to stay in space for a long period of time. The Internation Space Station(ISS), the one used today was launched much later in 1998. The ISS is has two main sections, the Russian orbital segment (ROS), and the United States operational segment (USOS).

Salyut 1 as seen departing

If it had not been for these daring ‘firsts’ in space, we would have known so little about it today.

Did you know?

  • Most popular space agency today is NASA. Though NASA was launched in 1958, it was Russia who ruled space exploration in the beginning.
  • Soviet Union and the United States had a rivalry over Space exploration in earlier times. It was often referred to as “Space Race” between the two nations.

(Luna 9 and Salyut 1 Image Courtest Wikimedia Commoms)

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