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Watch this space: the history and future of space exploration

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Fifty years ago, the first Apollo space mission had just begun. The sequence of Apollo missions ultimately resulted in Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin being the first men to land on the moon on 20th of July 1969. We're running down some of the most important moments in the history of space exploration, as well as looking into the future... 

This space exploration took place in the context of the Cold War, with the element of competition between the USA and Soviet Union providing an impetus to develop the technology to delve further into space.

The first spacecraft landing on the moon took place on 14th of September 1959, as the Luna 2 crashed down. It is also interesting to note that Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space, as his spacecraft travelled around the globe on 12th of April 1961. Valentina Tereshkova also went into orbit in 1963. Despite the atmosphere of rivalry, astronaut Alexei Leonov noted that looking down at earth from outer space made him appreciate that “our planet is home to just one human race”. This illustrates the potentially unifying nature of venturing out into the universe. Following the first landing on the moon, there were further missions and 65 more moon landings between the mid-1960s till the mid-1970s.

More recently, Japan and India have both launched successful missions and landed on the surface of the moon in 1990 and 2008 respectively.

China has a Lunar Exploration Program that has already collected samples from the moon. It is reported that in June this year the Chang’e 4 missions within the program could make the unprecedented step of landing on the far side of the moon. This could teach us about what the inside of the moon consists of and how it was formed.

Meanwhile, on the silver screen, the release of Damien Chazelle’s ‘First Man’ helps us to get a personal insight into Armstrong’s momentous journey.

The film helps audiences to understand the history behind the mission that allowed humans to land on the moon. The release of the film is pertinent as humans continue to develop technology that enables further discoveries of planets outside of our own and are introducing the idea of consumer flights to space.

Could there be money to be made in the future of space exploration? Some steps have already been taken to commercialise space travel. For example, The Manfred Memorial Moon Mission, developed by LuxSpace set the precedent for commercial flights into space. The project, that took place in October 2014, flew alongside the moon.

It has been announced that the Virgin Galactic will take-off imminently, allowing consumers to take a trip into space and to see the earth from a different perspective. Similar initiatives are being planned by Jeff Bezos’ ‘Blue Origin’ and Elon Musk’s ‘SpaceX’, allowing for further space tourism.

In addition, Musk has announced plans to send a rocket to Mars with the potential of colonizing the planet. To help achieve this, SpaceX are developing the Big Falcon Rocket, with the spaceship alone being around 18 stories tall.

Musk has the “aspirational” aim to send the rocket to Mars in 2022. There has been progress in sending out a rocket, given that Musk launched a Tesla inside a Falcon Heavy rocket to orbit Mars in February of this year.

From the first moon landing to the possibility of inhabiting another planet, we can see the upward trajectory of human exploration beyond our earth.

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