We’ve sent so many probes and people into space, it almost doesn’t seem like an incredible feat anymore. But the engineering, attention to detail, calculations, and decades of hard work that go into every mission deserve recognition and the proper appreciation. Here’s a list of the top 5 space missions and why they matter in the grand scheme of human existence.
The satellite that started it all. Sputnik was launched by the Soviet Union all the way back in 1957 and was history’s first artificial satellite. It orbited the Earth in 98 minutes and lasted for three weeks on battery power, then two additional months after the batteries died. While it might not sound like much, Sputnik represented the state of science and technology at that time and proved to the world that we as humans could achieve amazing things. Sputnik was just the beginning of a long and exciting time in space exploration.
2. Apollo 11
Human beings, who had only wandered around our little planet for thousands of years until Apollo 11, landed on our companion, the moon. Our ancestors looked to the moon for guidance, and we looked to it as a destination ready to be journeyed to. To some people, it’s such a crazy idea that it might as well be a giant hoax. But science is no hoax, and the talent of countless individuals made it possible. On July 24, 1969, humans landed on the moon. These first steps served as a catalyst for deeper and more daring missions that aim to, one day, send us to another planet.
3. Viking Program
We can’t talk about space missions without mentioning Mars. It’s a constant source of new information, fascinating discoveries, and stunning photos that show just how lucky we are to have a living, thriving world to call home. The Viking Program consisted of two orbiter-landers that were able to travel to, land on, and take photographs of Mars. They also looked for evidence of life using biology experiments that were inconclusive.
4. Voyagers 1 and 2
Jupiter and Saturn were thought to be far beyond our reach. They’re barely little blips in the sky, and getting to them makes the trip from Earth to Mars seem like an evening stroll. Still, in 1977, Voyager 1 and 2 were sent off to take the first up close and personal look at the gas giants. The have more than fulfilled their mission objectives and have now ventured far beyond any other probe. Voyager 2 travelled on to Neptune and Uranus, while Voyager 1 entered interstellar space. Voyager 2 joined its twin in this unexplored region in 2018.
5. The International Space Station
While this is technically not a singular mission, the ISS might just be the most important object orbiting Earth. Assembled over the course of several years, multiple missions, and with the help of many different agencies, the ISS serves as a home away from home for astronauts and cosmonauts. Since 2000, humans have been living on the ISS consistently, giving us a glimpse into what the future might be like. Space-condo, anyone?