The technology which helped Yuri Gagarin reach Earth’s upper atmosphere in 1961 was by far one of the biggest technological breakthroughs in mankind’s history. However, spacecrafts have evolved by leaps and bounds since then, so much so that we’re now preparing to send astronauts to Mars and launching orbiters to study the poles of the Sun. To celebrate how far mankind has come as a race, we’ve compiled a list of the most impactful space going vehicles in our history.
It would be criminal to start off a list of the most impactful spacecraft without mentioning the craft that started it all off. Launched in April 1961, Vostok 1 paved the way for space travel when Yuri Gagarin hitched a ride on the Vostok 3KA capsule for a single trip around the Earth. His journey lasted around 108 minutes before parachuting back down to the ground. The groundbreaking feat was broadcast on Soviet radio and it’s safe to say space travel has never been the same since.
(ISS) International Space Station
The International Space Station is arguably one of the most impressive spacecraft to leave the surface of the Earth and reach space. The $150 billion space station took over 20 years to be completed and has provided scientists and researchers alike with invaluable information about the Earth, space, and the cosmos that surround us all. For over two decades Russian, European, US, and Japanese astronauts have called the station home and proved that while there may be never-ending conflict here Earth, we can come together to pull off acheivements that are literally out of this world.
The Hubble Telescope
Launched on 25 April 1990 aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, the Hubble Space Telescope spends its days orbiting 547 kilometres above the Earth. During its 29 years in space, Hubble Telescope has helped researchers unlock the mysteries of space like discovering Pluto’s two moons, Hydra and Nix, creating a 3-D map of dark matter, and helping to better understand the rate at which the universe is expanding. The Hubble Telescope is arguably most well-known for the high-quality pictures of nebulas and far-away galaxies, all of which can be viewed here.
Parker Solar Probe
There is an old Greek myth that tells the story of Icarus flying to close the Sun and having the wax in his wings melt, resulting in the saying “don’t fly too close to the sun”. It a good thing scientist don’t pay too much attention to old myths or else we wouldn’t have record-setting Parker Solar Probe. The primary goal of the Parker Space Probe is to trace the flow of energy and understand the heating of the solar corona. It will achieve this by getting as close to the sun as possible, 6.9 million kilometres (9.86 solar radii) to be exact. The Parker Solar Probe is expected to complete its mission by 2026.
No list of space fairing vehicles would be complete without mentioning Apollo 11 and its groundbreaking mission to the Moon in July 1969. The Apollo 11 and its lunar module represents the first manned mission to successfully land on the Moon, with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s footprints still etched into the moon’s surface to this day. The landing was such an important moment for mankind as a whole that it was broadcasted live to millions of viewers around the world during a time when television sets were still a relatively new technology. Apollo 11 and its mission is still viewed as one of the most important moments in history.