The twenty-first century, although in its infancy, has seen some of the most extraordinary space-related developments in human history. From the first landing on a comet in 2009 to the discovery of water on Mars in 2015, these advancements were made possible by scientific precedent of the twentieth century. Most significantly, the period of the Cold War known as the ‘space race’ (1957-1975) accelerated scientific research and development within this field in one of the most audacious manners since the invention of the telescope in 1610.
The pinnacle of this two-decade period of human innovation was 1969, the year when Neil Armstrong became the first human to venture onto another world. Ever since leaving his footprint upon the Moon’s vacant plains, space exploration has been propelled into a frenzy of breakthroughs as each new discovery planted the seeds for the next. Key developments have been frequent and vast. After “that’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” was broadcast to roughly 600 million televisions on Earth in 1969, a new romance was born between man and space that has yet to falter as the possibilities of human capability became endless.
Key developments that followed the Moon landing include the production of space stations with the first one sent into orbit in 1971, the Soviet Salyut 1. There are currently two space stations in orbit today, the International Space Station and the Chinese Tiangong-1 which shows the development of space stations to retain importance even today, almost five decades later. Similarly, the incentive to explore new worlds expanded by the Moon mission in 1969 can be observed through the first unmanned landing on Mars in 1971, and even today with the New Horizons mission which reached the boundaries of our Solar System in 2015 when it completed its fly-by of Pluto. Although Apollo 11 was American, it has since led to multinational cooperation in manned space exploration as exemplified by the Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975, the first manned multinational space mission, and even the launch of the €100 billion International Space Station in 1998. The ISS is a multinational effort of five global space agencies and has the primary purpose of being a research-base for all who contribute.
Although much of the Moon landing was linked to Cold War competition and arguably a publicity stunt within its context (sending humans to another planet did nothing other than prove humans could reach another planet as unmanned ships had been to the moon since the Luna 2 in 1959), it helped justify further Space projects and paved the way to modern day advancements such as the Mars One program which aims to send humans to live on Mars by 2027.