This picture was taken on March 6, 1969. It shows the Apollo 9 commander, James McDivitt, aboard the command module.
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA
History of Human Spaceflight
There are two type of space missions. Some missions are done by spacecraft that
are machines or robots. Other missions have people on the space ships. We call
the missions with people onboard "human spaceflight" missions.
The first astronauts
and cosmonauts (the Russian word for astronaut) were test pilots who were
very familiar with flying in fast and dangerous planes! The first human
being to travel into space was Yuri Gagarin (USSR, 1961), followed a month
later by the US astronaut Alan Shepard.
Once we found out that humans could travel in space, a "space race"
quickly developed between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United
States main interest was to land on the moon. The Soviet Union was more
interested in setting endurance records and doing scientific research.
Through a sequence of human and
space mission programs, including Mercury,
Gemini, and Apollo
, the United States finally
in landing the first people on the Moon in 1969
with Apollo 11
In 1973, the first American space laboratory
shot into orbit, and scientific experiments began to take place. Between
the United States scheduled only one or two human spaceflight missions.
Finally in 1981, the
United States revamped their human spaceflight program with several new missions
brand new spacecraft design, the space shuttle. The space shuttle is a
In the meantime, the Soviets made several missions testing out new spacecraft
became the "first" to create a space station. In 1971, the cosmonauts spent
several days aboard the first
space station. The cosmonauts continued to spend time on several space station
then, breaking several endurance records in space. Laboratory experiments were
conducted on all of these space stations, and the Soviets made great strides
expanding our knowledge of space, medicine, and engineering.
Now both countries participate in the International Space Station. It opened its doors to its first visitors in November 2000.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
Apollo 11 was the first mission that landed a person on the moon. On July 16, 1969, the U. S. rocket Saturn 5 was launched carrying the lunar landing module Eagle. The Eagle was released and it reached...more
There is a large space station circling Earth right now. It is called the International Space Station (ISS for short). Astronauts live and work in the ISS. Sixteen countries, including the United States,...more
Three men are living on the the International Space Station (ISS). They've been living there for about 2 weeks now. For the next 4 months, Russian astronauts Yuri P. Gidzenko and Sergei K. Krikalev and...more
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is really neat! It was first launched in 1990, but scientists started building it in the 1970's! We have found all kinds of objects like stars, nebulae and galaxies. The...more
Apollo 12 was launched on Nov. 14, 1969 and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended to its surface, while Richard Gordon remained in lunar orbit aboard the...more
Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more
NASA chose Deep Impact to be part of a special series called the Discovery Program. This program is for cheap, scientific projects. In May 2001, NASA said it was ok to start with mission development for...more