International Space Station

In This Chapter

V The early development of rockets

V Sputnik: The space race begins

V The first men in space

V Lunar missions

V Planetary probes

V The Space Shuttle and space stations

While countless human beings have gazed up at the sky with wonder, a few were never content just to look. They didn't want to wait for the information to get here, they wanted to go there. In the second century c.e., the Greek satirist Lucian wrote the first account we have of a fictional trip from the earth to the moon. Doubtless, someone had thought about such a trip before Lucian, and certainly many contemplated space travel after him. It was not until the eighteenth century that people were first lofted into the air by hot-air balloons. And while the airplane made its debut in 1903, human spaceflight—in which a human ventured beyond the earth's protective atmospheric blanket—did not come about until the 1961 flight of a Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.

This chapter reviews manned as well as unmanned spaceflight, chiefly from the point of view of astronomy.

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