Ever since human beings first looked at the lights in the night sky, they have wanted to know what was out there. The renaissance brought many new advances like the telescope which made more precise astronomical observations possible. But the real advances came in the twentieth century. Early experiments with rockets eventually led to the first satellites and the first manned space missions. Soon, mankind would use these machines to walk on the surface of another world. The Space Shuttle program made space travel more routine. Orbiting space stations make scientific experiments possible. And the future brings the promise of commercial space travel and manned missions to Mars and beyond. In this section of Sea and Sky, you can explore the major milestones that led to the development of our manned space programs and learn about the history of space exploration. Click here for a list of credits and sources.
It was Sir Isaac Newton's publication of Principia that laid the foundation for space exploration. In the following centuries, much progress was made toward the development of the first rockets.
The decade of the sixties was in many ways the golden age of space exploration, featuring the first manned space missions, the American Mercury and Gemini programs, and the first Moon landing in 1969.
This decade saw the Apollo program come to a close. The next few years were dominated by the first orbiting space stations and the first space probes sent to explore the mysteries of the Solar System.
The decade of the eighties saw the beginning of the Space Shuttle program with all of its triumphs and its tragedies. Many amazing discoveries were also made throughout the Solar System.
The nineties saw the continuation of the Space Shuttle program and many new missions to explore the Solar System. It also saw the early beginnings of the commercial space program.
After the turn of the century, another disaster plagued the Space Shuttle program. The Shuttle was eventually retired and commercial space companies began to take the initiative for exploring space.
The second decade of the new century sees commercial companies gearing up to take over low Earth orbit space travel. Many new deep space programs are currently under development for the future.
The third decade of the new century sees new missions to the planets including the the first powered aircraft to fly on another planet. The commercial space industry also gets a boost with the start of the civilian space tourism industry.