Space Age
The launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite marked the start of the Space Age.[1]
The signals of Sputnik 1 continued for 22 days.
The Space Shuttle lifts off on a manned mission to space.

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 (1957).


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 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 in a close race mostly between the US 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.

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]

During the 1990s funding for space related programs fell sharply as the remaining structures of the Soviet Union disintegrated and NASA no longer had any direct competition.

Since then participation in space launches has increasingly widened to more governments and commercial interests. Since the 1990s, space exploration and space-related technologies gained a perception by many people of being commonplace.

Current period

In the early 21st century, the Ansari X Prize competition was set up to help jump start private spaceflight, which was won by Space Ship One in 2004, becoming the first spaceship not funded by a government agency.[4]

Several countries now have space programs; from related technology ventures to full-fledged space programs with launch facilities.[5] There are many scientific and commercial satellites in use today, with thousands of satellites in orbit,[6] and several countries have plans to send humans into space.[7][8]


Date First ... Mission Person(s) Country Rocket Private Company Government
June 20, 1944 Artificial object in outer space, i.e. beyond the Kármán line V-2 rocket, test flight - N/A Germany V-2 - N/A Peenemünde Army Research Center
October 24, 1946 Pictures from space (105km)[9][10][11] U.S.-launched V-2 rocket from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. - N/A United States V-2 - N/A Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency
February 20, 1947 Animals in space U.S.-launched V-2 rocket on 20 February 1947 from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.[12][13][14] - fruit flies United States V-2 - N/A Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency
October 4, 1957 Artificial satellite Sputnik 1 - N/A Soviet Union
November 3, 1957 Animal in orbit Sputnik 2 Laika the dog Soviet Union
January 2, 1959 Lunar flyby, and first spacecraft to achieve a heliocentric orbit Luna 1 - N/A Soviet Union
September 12, 1959 Impacted on the Lunar surface; thereby becoming the first human object to reach another celestial body Luna 2 - N/A Soviet Union
October 7, 1959 Pictures of the far side of the Moon Luna 3 - N/A Soviet Union
April 12, 1961 Human in space Vostok 1 Yuri Gagarin Soviet Union
May 5, 1961 Manual orientation of manned spacecraft and first human space mission that landed with pilot still in spacecraft, thereby technically achieving the first complete human spaceflight by FAI definitions[15][16] Freedom 7 Alan Shepard United States
December 14, 1962 Successful flyby of another planet (Venus closest approach 34,773 kilometers) Mariner 2 - N/A United States
March 18, 1965 Spacewalk Voskhod 2 Alexey Leonov Soviet Union
December 15, 1965 Space rendezvous Gemini 6A & Gemini 7 Schirra, Stafford, Borman, Lovell United States
March 16, 1966 Orbital docking between two spacecraft Gemini 8 & Agena Target Vehicle Neil Armstrong, David Scott United States
April 3, 1966 Artificial satellite of another celestial body (other than the Sun) Luna 10 - N/A Soviet Union
December 21-27, 1968 Humans to leave the Earth's influence, orbiting the Moon Apollo 8 Borman, Lovell, Anders United States
July 20, 1969 Humans land and walk on another celestial body (Moon) Apollo 11 Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin United States
April 19, 1971 Operational space station Salyut 1 - N/A Soviet Union
June 7, 1971 Resident crew Soyuz 11 Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, Viktor Patsayev Soviet Union
July 20, 1976 Pictures from the surface of Mars Viking 1 - N/A United States
April 12, 1981 Reusable orbital spaceship STS-1 Young, Crippen United States
February 19, 1986 Long-duration space station Mir - N/A Soviet Union
February 14, 1990 Photograph of the whole Solar System[17] Voyager 1 - N/A United States
August 25, 2012 Artificial space probe in interstellar space Voyager 1 - N/A United States
November 12, 2014 Artificial probe to make a planned and soft landing on a comet (67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko)[18] Rosetta - N/A European Union
July 14, 2015 Nation to have its space probes to explore all of the nine major planets recognized in 1981[19] New Horizons - N/A United States
December 20, 2015 Vertical landing of an orbital rocket booster on a ground pad.[20] Falcon 9 flight 20 - N/A United States
April 8, 2016 Vertical landing of an orbital rocket booster on a floating platform at sea.[21] SpaceX CRS-8 - N/A United States
March 22, 2016 Microgravity-optimzed commercial manufacturing device.[22] Cygnus CRS OA-6 - N/A United States
March 30, 2017 Relaunch and second landing of a used orbital rocket booster.[23] SES-10 - N/A United States

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 man-made object to enter space, albeit only briefly.[24] Some even considered that the Space Age started in March 1926, when American rocket pioneer Robert H. Goddard launched the world's first liquid fuel rocket, though his rocket did not reach the outer space.[25]

Since the aforementioned 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 inter-continental ballistic missile. The fact that after such a development nowhere on the planet was safe from a nuclear warhead is why the orbit standard is used to define when the space age started.[26]

Arts and architecture

Iconic rocket ship-shaped tail lights and fins on a 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
Satellite-influenced signage at the Town Motel in Birmingham, Alabama
TWA Moonliner II replica atop the restored TWA Corporate Headquarters building in Kansas City, MO, 2007

The Space Age is considered to have influenced:

See also


  1. ^ McDougall, Walter A (Winter 2010), "Shooting the Moon", American Heritage .
  2. ^ Garber, Steve. "Sputnik and The Dawn of the Space Age". History. NASA. Retrieved 2013. 
  3. ^ "National Aeronautics and Space Administration". NASA. Retrieved . 
  4. ^ "SpaceShipOne: The First Private Spacecraft | The Most Amazing Flying Machines Ever". Retrieved . 
  5. ^ "Global Space Programs | Space Foundation". Retrieved . 
  6. ^ "Satellites - Active Satellites in Earth's Orbit". Retrieved . 
  7. ^ "Japan Wants Space Plane or Capsule by 2022". Retrieved . 
  8. ^ "India takes giant step to manned space mission". Retrieved . 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ [2]
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Post War Space". 
  13. ^ "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 2008. 
  14. ^ "V-2 Firing Tables". White Sands Missile Range. Archived from the original on 25 January 2008. Retrieved 2008. 
  15. ^ "Geek Trivia: A leap of fakes". Retrieved 2016. 
  16. ^ "Manned Space Firsts". Retrieved . 
  17. ^ See [3] under "Extended Mission"
  18. ^ Chang, Kenneth (Nov 12, 2014). "European Space Agency's Spacecraft Lands on Comet's Surface". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Chang, Kenneth (December 21, 2015). "SpaceX Successfully Lands Rocket after Launch of Satellites into Orbit". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015. 
  21. ^ Drake, Nadia (April 8, 2016). "SpaceX Rocket Makes Spectacular Landing on Drone Ship". National Geographic. Retrieved 2016. To space and back, in less than nine minutes? Hello, future. 
  22. ^ Kotack, Madison (March 22, 2016). "A little printer 3-d printer on the iss is a huge step for space exploration". Wired. Retrieved 2016. 
  23. ^ Grush, Loren (March 30, 2017). "SpaceX makes aerospace history with successful landing of a used rocket". The Verge. Retrieved 2017. 
  24. ^ 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 
  25. ^ "Goddard launches space age with historic first 85 years ago today". Retrieved . 
  26. ^ 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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