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An Overview of Space Exploration

For as long as there have been people on Earth, we have looked up at the sky and wondered about the Sun, Moon, stars, and occasional dramatic events we saw there. But it is only in the past 40 years that we developed the technical ability to leave our planet and actually visit other bodies in the universe.

After World War II, both the United States and the Soviet Union created programs to impove the design of rockets which would make space travel possible. What then followed was a race to travel into space with unmanned probes and manned spacecraft.

During the last four decades, hundreds of satellites, probes and space shuttles have been launched, which have explored near-Earth space, travelled to the Moon, the Sun, and to all the planets except Pluto. And, with permanent space stations already in orbit around Earth and telescopes exploring more and more of our universe, space research is still continuing. Talk of future developments includes building a colony on Mars, searching for life in other galaxies, and other exciting programs.


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A new museum exhibit shows that some of the robots, vehicles and devices from the Star Wars films are close to the types of things scientists have developed to use in space. The exhibition--at the Science...more

Hubble Space Telescope

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST found numerous...more

Apollo 11

Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the name of the first mission...more

Apollo 12

Apollo 12 was launched on Nov. 14, 1969, surviving a lightning strike which temporarily shut down many systems, and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended...more

Apollo 15

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

Deep Impact Mission

NASA chose Deep Impact to be part of a special series called the Discovery Program on July 7, 1999. The Discovery program specializes in low-cost, scientific projects. In May 2001, Deep Impact was given...more

Galileo

The Galileo spacecraft was launched on October 19, 1989. Galileo had two parts: an orbiter and a descent probe that parachuted into Jupiter's atmosphere. Galileo's main mission was to explore Jupiter and...more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF