This week marks the anniversary of the first man in space. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, a pilot from the former Soviet Union, orbited the Earth in only 89 minutes. This event sent Gagarin into worldwide stardom and the United States into a quick competition. The U.S. sent their first man to space, Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., shortly after, on May 5, 1961.
With 60 years passing since this historic event, there have been many advancements in space travel. Let’s take a look back.
To the Moon — and Beyond!
Neil Armstrong, an American astronaut, was the first man to walk on the Moon in July of 1969. There are only 12 people who have stepped foot on the Moon since, with the last occurring in 1972. Despite the 50-year stand still, interest in space travel has continued to be extremely prevalent.
NASA announced its plans to send the first woman to the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis Program. With the resumption of Moon exploration, NASA also plans to test the use of technology that could eventually allow human travel to Mars.
The first successful unmanned landing on Mars was in July 1976 with NASA’s Viking 1. NASA is aiming to send the first humans to Mars in the 2030s and is currently operating projects to explore the planet and determine climate capabilities.
Missions to discover other parts of the universe will be expanded over the coming years as well. NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will be the first mission to touch the sun. The James Webb Space Telescope project will investigate the origins of our universe, examine worlds around other stars and study the evolution of our own solar system.
Celebrities in Space
Going to space for non-astronauts has become a possibility in the last few years as well — that is if you can afford the hefty $450,000 price tag. Virgin Airlines launched Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline that will take customers on a 90-minute excursion into space beginning this October. Many celebrities have expressed their desire to take part, and actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Ashton Kutcher have already secured tickets.
Jeff Bezos infamously traveled to space in July 2021 on the Blue Origin New Shepard Rocket, costing over 5 billion dollars. Bezos’ company Blue Origin has yet to reveal how much they will charge prospective customers for a ride to space onboard their aircrafts.
The Rise of Astrotourism
For travelers looking to experience space in other ways, there has been a rising trend of astrotourism adventures. Organizations like the International Dark-Sky Association highlight locations where you can see planets and stars clearly, with more than 60 sites around the world. Hotels have capitalized on the spike in astrotourism, featuring accommodations with windowed ceilings in locations like the Arctic Circle to provide a clear view of the Northern Lights.
With so much still to discover in space, projects that go beyond our solar system — and even our galaxy — will continue to take off.