50 Years of Space Exploration

space exploration science
July 17, 2019

At the moment we’re living in an incredibly special period in time, an age brimming with scientific discovery and advancements in fields our predecessors could have only dreamt of. The past 50 years have seen us achieve amazing breakthroughs in space exploration and the physics behind it, making it the perfect time to inspire some budding scientists within your group.

Whether your students want to explore the physics which makes space travel possible on a unique trip to CERN in Geneva, or explore one of the most iconic sites for space exploration at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida we’ve got a range of immersive and memorable trips perfect for bringing classroom learning to life. We even have exclusive opportunities to meet astronauts who’ve been a part of it all, where your students can get a rare insight into life in space and what it means to be an astronaut.

At Adaptable Travel we love science and giving students the opportunity to explore this fantastic subject with immersive experiences. We’re marking 50 years since the Moon landing, an event that inspired entire generations all over the globe by celebrating the milestone moments science has given us since.

April 1961 saw Russian astronaut, Yuri Gagarin take the lead in the ‘Space Race’ between the US and the former Soviet Union to become the first person in space, shortly followed by American Astronaut Alan Shephard Jr. less than a month later. 8 years on NASA launched their Apollo 11 mission, and mankind took their famous first ‘big step’ on the moon amazing viewers all over the globe. The 20th July 2019 marks 50 years since that incredible feat (or incredible footprints!) and the doors of opportunity and inspiration this opened for future space exploration. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings we’ve compiled a list of the biggest, best and most incredible discoveries, achievements and milestones we’ve accomplished thanks to developments in space exploration.

One Small Step

20th July 1969 saw 650 million people all over the globe eagerly tune in to witness astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin make history as the first men on the moon after a 4 day. Shortly after NASA’s Lunar Module ‘Apollo 11’ touched down Neil Armstrong uttered the immortal words “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ and changed history forever. Armstrong and Aldrin spent a total of 21 hours exploring the moons surface, documenting their findings and making history. The Moon landing was not only a pivotal moment for global science, discovery and human accomplishment but cemented the US’s victory against the then Soviet Union in the 20 year long ‘Space Race’. Following the Apollo 11 mission there were total of six moon landings between 1969 and 1972 seeing 12 men walk on the surface of the moon. The NASA moon landings have existed in history as the only attempt at a manned moon landing globally. The Moon landings furthered our understanding of space and the worlds that exist there and heralded some amazing discoveries such as the structure of the Moon and its similarities to Earth’s, the Giant Impact Theory, confirmation of Einstein’s ‘Strong Equivalence Principal’ and confirmation that there was no life on the Moon.

1st Mar’s Lander

Exactly 7 years after the success of the Moon landings NASA cemented its Mars exploration programme by successfully landing the first ‘Mars lander’ on the planet. Viking 1 made history for NASA again as the first spacecraft to land on the surface of another planet, the first mission to explore Mars and the first spacecraft to transmit images and data from the planet to Earth. Less than 2 months later NASA successfully landed it’s second Mars Lander on 3rd September 1976 named Viking 2. These landers were the first craft to explore the possibility of life on Mars by conducting biology experiments and collecting soil samples, images and data and pioneered technology and resources that would allow humankind to conduct further exploration on Mars such as NASA’s Opportunity and Spirit Rovers.

Voyager Missions

Between August and September 1977 NASA launched 2 ‘Voyager’ missions intended to explore further afield within our solar systems where no humanmade craft have explored before. The 2 spacecraft are using a rare alignment in the gravitational pull of each planet in our outer solar system to pull themselves from planet to planet allowing the outer planets within our solar system to be reached for the first time in history. The timing of the voyager mission was also a crucial component of its success, as the alignment used to reach the outer planets only occurs once every 176 years, making timing imperative if this was to be achieved during our lifetime. Both voyager 1 and 2 are still continuing to explore the space within our solar system and currently stand further away from the Earth than Pluto, that’s more than a staggering 4.67 billion miles! Throughout their 40 plus year mission the two spacecraft have made some remarkable discoveries such as discovering the first active volcanoes and lightening discovered outside of Earth, the first close up view of Uranus, and the historic passage into interstellar space, still filled with debris from stars which died millions of years ago. The continuing mission has not only cemented Voyager 1 as the farthest manmade object in space but also allowed NASA to accomplish its longest running mission with voyager 2, breaking previous records set by its predecessor ‘Pioneer 6’.

Hubble Space Telescope Launched

On 24th April 1990, NASA’s space shuttle ‘Discovery’ lifted away from the Kennedy Space Center on mission ‘STS-31’ with the Hubble Space Telescope onboard. The day after launch, on the 25th April the Hubble Telescope was deployed from onboard ‘Discovery’ and entered the Earth’s orbit, marking the most significant astronomical development since Galileo’s telescope. 25 years and over 1.3 observations later thanks to this development we are continuing to learn more about the mysteries of our universe and our position within this complex solar system.  Over its impressive 25-year journey the Hubble Telescope has glanced into the distance over 13.4 billion lightyears from Earth, helping us make breakthrough discoveries in our understanding of space. Its discoveries have included tracing how galaxies grow, Nobel Prize winning observations on the expansion and acceleration of our universe, realising the existence and rate of Black Holes amongst galaxies neighbouring our own and the continued study of the outer planets in our Solar System and their moons. It is safe to say that with the aid of this pioneering equipment the mysteries of our universe are becoming less and less of a mystery and we are discovering more about our universe than ever before.

International Space Station (ISS)

In December 1998 the first U.S made element of the ISS was launched and this signalled the beginning of the ISS’ assembly in space. Almost two years later US Astronaut Bill Shepherd was accompanied by Russian and Ukrainian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev to become the first residential crew onboard the station, where they lived for almost 4 months. During their residency aboard the ISS, the crew led a flight test of the ISS and carried out assembly tasks on the first three modules of the station. A total of 3 Space Shuttle assembly missions docked at the ISS throughout the duration of their residency which resulted in the expansion of two areas within the space station, a set of giant U.S solar arrays and batteries and a U.S designed Destiny Laboratory module, the equipment needed for the crew to assemble the lab was also delivered via shuttle. Since the first residential crew set foot on the ISS it has seen at least 220 members of crew over a 19-year period of continuous human occupation, including the first ever ‘space tourist’ Dennis Tito. The ISS was expanded and assembled continuously for over a decade with the main construction work taking place between 1998 and 2011, and continued evolution to allow for further exploration and experimentation.

Opportunity and Spirit Mars Rovers

28 years after the first Mars landers Viking 1 & 2 touched down on Mars, NASA successfully landed two more Mars Rovers on the surface of the planet in January 2004. ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Spirit’ were launched on 90-day missions to further explore Mars and strengthen NASA’s understanding of Mars. However, these plucky little spacecrafts exceeded their missions by racking up a combined total of 15 years exploring, with NASA losing contact with Opportunity and terminating efforts to restore contact in February 2019. The twin rovers accomplished much more than we could have ever imagined from them including; snapping a combined 342,000 images of Mars, photographing a meteorite on the surface of Mars, photographing a Martian crater and further supporting claims of historic water on Mars by identifying clay minerals on its surface. The twin rovers’ have certainly left a strong set of tracks for future missions to follow and taught humankind mountains about our galactic neighbour.

First photograph of a Black Hole

In 2019 a little over 100 years since Albert Einstein developed his theory for general relativity, history was made. In his theory, Einstein predicted the existence of Black Holes within the universe and their behaviour. In April 2019 Event Horizon Telescope announced the first ever photograph of a Black Hole, confirming Einstein’s theory and shining a light on our understanding of Black Holes and matter within our universe. The image released shows a ‘supermassive black hole’ almost identical in size to our entire milky way, in the middle of the M87 galaxy. This Black Hole emitted the light that can be seen in the image 55 million years ago, making it fairly close to Earth (in intergalactic terms!). The opportunity to study this photograph has allowed teams of researchers and scientist confirm predictions and estimations about the behaviour of Black Holes such as, the speed at which material surrounding Black Holes moves prior to consumption.

The last 50 years of progression have allowed us to explore further into space than ever possible before and make ground-breaking discoveries along the way. It’s left countless people across the globe exited, stunned and amazed by feats possible thanks to science and taught us all a lot more about our place within the universe. What do you think is instore for the next 50 years of space exploration and do you think we’ll ever discover life on planets outside our own?

Living in such an exiting period for science and discovery there’s been no better time to engage younger generations with the wonder of science and exploration. At Adaptable Travel we have understand the importance of science and the amazing learning experiences this exiting subject presents for students. Over 25 years we’ve developed a range of school science trips and tours spanning 5 countries, that let students explore topics in interactive, immersive environments and maximise their grasp of this wonderful subject. Inspiring generations of budding scientists keeps exploration and discover alive and at Adaptable Travel we say, “let’s keep discovering!”

If you’re looking for an engaging school trip experience for your science students browse our range of science trips or request a quote today and our friendly, expert team will help you plan the perfect bespoke school trip.