Space Age

The Space Age is a time period encompassing the activities related to the Space Race, space exploration, space technology, and the cultural developments influenced by these events. The Space Age is generally considered to have begun with Sputnik 1 in 1957, continuing to the present day.


The Space Age began with the development of several technologies that converged with the October 4, 1957 launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union. This was the world's first artificial satellite, orbiting the Earth in 98.1 minutes and weighing 83 kg (183 lb). The launch of Sputnik 1 ushered in a new era of political, scientific and technological achievements that became known as the Space Age.[2]

The Space Age was characterized by rapid development of new technology and a race for achievement, mostly between the United States and the Soviet Union. Rapid advances were made in rocketry, materials science, computers and other areas. Much of the technology originally developed for space applications has been spun off and found additional uses. One such example is memory foam.

The Space Age reached its peak with the Apollo program that captured the imagination of much of the world's population. The landing of Apollo 11 was watched by over 500 million people around the world and is widely recognized as one of the defining moments of the 20th century. Since then, public attention has largely moved to other areas.[3]

In the United States, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 marked a significant decline in manned Shuttle launches. Following the disaster, NASA grounded all Shuttles for safety concerns until 1988.[4] During the 1990s funding for space related programs fell sharply as the remaining structures of the now dissolved Soviet Union disintegrated and NASA no longer had any direct competition.

Since then, participation in space launches has increasingly widened to include more governments and commercial interests. Since the 1990s, the public perception of space exploration and space-related technologies has been that such endeavors are increasingly commonplace.

NASA permanently grounded all U.S. Space Shuttles in 2011. NASA has since relied on Russia to take American astronauts to and from the International Space Station.[5]

Current period

In the early 21st century, the Ansari X Prize competition was set up to help jump-start private spaceflight. The winner, Space Ship One in 2004, became the first spaceship not funded by a government agency.[6]

Several countries now have space programs; from related technology ventures to full-fledged space programs with launch facilities.[7] There are many scientific and commercial satellites in use today, with thousands of satellites in orbit,[8] and several countries have plans to send humans into space.[9][10] Some of the countries joining this new race are France, India, China and Israel, all of which have employed surveillance satellites. There are several other countries with less extensive space programs, including the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Ukraine and Spain.[11]

As for the United States space program, NASA is currently constructing a deep-space crew capsule named the Orion. NASA's goal with this new space capsule is to carry humans to Mars. The Orion spacecraft is due to be completed in the early 2020s. NASA is hoping that this mission will “usher in a new era of space exploration.”[11]

Another major factor affecting the current Space Age is the privatization of space flight. There are two major companies, Boeing and SpaceX, that are taking a large part in research and innovation. Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, has stated an ultimate goal of putting a colony of 1 million people on Mars and in 2018, it launched its largest rocket, bringing this goal closer to reality.[12] Blue Origin, a private company funded by founder Jeff Bezos, is developing rockets for use in space tourism, commercial satellite launches, and eventual missions to the Moon and beyond.[13] Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic is concentrating on launch vehicles for space tourism. The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in October, 2019.[14]


Date First ... Mission Person(s) Country
June 20, 1944Artificial object in outer space, i.e. beyond the Kármán lineV-2 rocket, test flight– N/AGermany
October 24, 1946Pictures from space (105 km)[15][16][17]U.S.-launched V-2 rocket from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.– N/AUnited States
February 20, 1947Animals in spaceU.S.-launched V-2 rocket on 20 February 1947 from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.[18][19][20]- fruit fliesUnited States
October 4, 1957Artificial satelliteSputnik 1– N/ASoviet Union
November 3, 1957Animal in orbitSputnik 2Laika the dogSoviet Union
January 2, 1959Lunar flyby, and first spacecraft to achieve a heliocentric orbitLuna 1– N/ASoviet Union
September 12, 1959Impacted on the Lunar surface; thereby becoming the first human object to reach another celestial bodyLuna 2– N/ASoviet Union
October 7, 1959Pictures of the far side of the MoonLuna 3– N/ASoviet Union
April 12, 1961Human in spaceVostok 1Yuri GagarinSoviet Union
May 5, 1961Manual orientation of manned spacecraft and first human space mission that landed with pilot still in spacecraft, thus the first complete human spaceflight by FAI definitions[21][22]Freedom 7Alan ShepardUnited States
December 14, 1962Successful flyby of another planet (Venus closest approach 34,773 kilometers)Mariner 2– N/AUnited States
March 18, 1965SpacewalkVoskhod 2Alexei LeonovSoviet Union
December 15, 1965Space rendezvousGemini 6A and Gemini 7Schirra, Stafford, Borman, LovellUnited States
February 3, 1966 Soft landing on the Moon by a spacecraft Luna 9 – N/A Soviet Union
March 1, 1966 First human-made object to impact another planet Venera 3 – N/A Soviet Union
March 16, 1966Orbital docking between two spacecraftGemini 8 & Agena Target VehicleNeil Armstrong, David ScottUnited States
April 3, 1966Artificial satellite of another celestial body (other than the Sun)Luna 10– N/ASoviet Union
October 18, 1967 First spacecraft to perform transmit data from the atmosphere of another planet Venera 4 – N/A Soviet Union
December 21–27, 1968First humans to enter the gravitational influence of another celestial body (the Moon) and orbit itApollo 8Borman, Lovell, AndersUnited States
July 20, 1969Humans land and walk on another celestial body (Moon)Apollo 11Neil Armstrong, Buzz AldrinUnited States
December 15, 1970 First telemetry from the surface of another planet Venera 7 – N/A Soviet Union
April 19, 1971Operational space stationSalyut 1– N/ASoviet Union
June 7, 1971Resident crewSoyuz 11 (Salyut 1)Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, Viktor PatsayevSoviet Union
July 20, 1976Pictures from the surface of MarsViking 1– N/AUnited States
April 12, 1981Reusable orbital spaceshipSTS-1Young, CrippenUnited States
February 19, 1986Long-duration space stationMir– N/ASoviet Union
February 14, 1990Photograph of the whole Solar System[23]Voyager 1 – N/AUnited States
November 20, 1998Current space stationInternational Space Station– N/AUnited States
August 25, 2012Artificial space probe in interstellar spaceVoyager 1– N/AUnited States
November 12, 2014Artificial probe to make a planned and soft landing on a comet (67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko)[24]Rosetta– N/AEuropean Space Agency
July 14, 2015Nation to have its space probes to explore all of the nine major planets recognized in 1981[25]New Horizons– N/AUnited States
December 20, 2015Vertical landing of an orbital rocket booster on a ground pad.[26]Falcon 9 flight 20– N/AUnited States
April 8, 2016Vertical landing of an orbital rocket booster on a floating platform at sea.[27]SpaceX CRS-8– N/AUnited States
March 30, 2017Relaunch and second landing of a used orbital rocket booster.[28]SES-10– N/AUnited States
January 3, 2019Soft landing on the lunar far side by a spacecraft.Chang'e 4– N/AChina

Earlier spaceflights

The Space Age might also be considered to have begun much earlier than October 4, 1957, because in June 1944, a German V-2 rocket became the first manmade object to enter space, albeit only briefly.[29] Some even consider the beginning of the Space Age March 1926, when American rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard launched the world's first liquid fuel rocket, though his rocket did not reach outer space.[30]

Since the V-2 rocket flight was undertaken in secrecy, it was not public knowledge for many years afterward. Further, the German launches, as well as the subsequent sounding rocket tests performed in both the United States and the Soviet Union during the late 1940s and early 1950s, were not considered significant enough to start a new age because they did not reach orbit. Having a rocket powerful enough to reach orbit meant that a nation had the ability to place a payload anywhere on the planet, or to use another term, possessed an intercontinental ballistic missile. The fact that after such a development nowhere on Earth was safe from a nuclear warhead is why the orbital standard is commonly used to define when the space age began.[31]

Arts and architecture

The Space Age is considered to have influenced:

See also


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  3. "National Aeronautics and Space Administration". NASA. Archived from the original on 1996-12-31. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
  4. Howell, Elizabeth. "Challenger: Shuttle Disaster That Changed NASA". Archived from the original on 4 May 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
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  10. "India takes giant step to manned space mission". Archived from the original on 2015-11-26. Retrieved 2015-11-27.
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  14. "To the NYSE and beyond: Virgin Galactic becomes first public space tourism company". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  15. "Chronology: Cowboys to V-2s to the Space Shuttle to lasers". Archived from the original on 13 October 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2013-01-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. Reichhardt, Tony. "First Photo From Space". Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  18. "Post War Space". Archived from the original on 2011-07-15.
  19. "The Beginnings of Research in Space Biology at the Air Force Missile Development Center, 1946–1952". History of Research in Space Biology and Biodynamics. NASA. Archived from the original on 25 January 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  20. "V-2 Firing Tables". White Sands Missile Range. Archived from the original on 25 January 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  21. "Geek Trivia: A leap of fakes". Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 18 August 2016.
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  23. See "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2009-07-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) under "Extended Mission"
  24. Chang, Kenneth (Nov 12, 2014). "European Space Agency's Spacecraft Lands on Comet's Surface". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-11-12. Retrieved Nov 12, 2014.
  25. Talbert, Tricia (25 March 2015). "New Horizons: The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt". Archived from the original on 15 October 2017. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  26. Chang, Kenneth (December 21, 2015). "SpaceX Successfully Lands Rocket after Launch of Satellites into Orbit". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2015.
  27. Drake, Nadia (April 8, 2016). "SpaceX Rocket Makes Spectacular Landing on Drone Ship". National Geographic. Archived from the original on April 8, 2016. Retrieved April 8, 2016. To space and back, in less than nine minutes? Hello, future.
  28. Grush, Loren (March 30, 2017). "SpaceX makes aerospace history with successful landing of a used rocket". The Verge. Archived from the original on March 30, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  29. Schefter, James (1999), The Race: The Uncensored Story of How America Beat Russia to the Moon, New York, New York: Doubleday, pp. 3–49, ISBN 0-385-49253-7
  30. "Goddard launches space age with historic first 85 years ago today". Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  31. Schefter, James (1999), The Race: The Uncensored Story of How America Beat Russia to the Moon, New York, New York: Doubleday, pp. 3–49, ISBN 0-385-49253-7

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