44 Photographs That Show How Far Space Exploration Has Come

1957 An unidentified scientist wears a 50-pound prototype space suit as he stands in a "moon room", where vacuum pressure simulates conditions on the moon. He is carrying an electron gun to detect air leaks by ionising the air in the space.

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1957 An unidentified scientist wears a 50-pound prototype space suit as he stands in a “moon room”, where vacuum pressure simulates conditions on the moon. He is carrying an electron gun to detect air leaks by ionising the air in the space.

1957 Laika, the Russian cosmonaut dog, was the first animal to orbit the Earth, travelling on board the Sputnik 2 spacecraft launched on Nov. 3, 1957. The Soviet space programme used dogs and other animals to ascertain the viability of later sending humans.

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1957 Laika, the Russian cosmonaut dog, was the first animal to orbit the Earth, travelling on board the Sputnik 2 spacecraft launched on Nov. 3, 1957. The Soviet space programme used dogs and other animals to ascertain the viability of later sending humans.

1957 Six unidentified scientists use ladders and a large chalkboard to work out equations for satellite orbits at Systems Labs, California.

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1957 Six unidentified scientists use ladders and a large chalkboard to work out equations for satellite orbits at Systems Labs, California.

1957 A Soviet technician working on Sputnik 1.

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1957 A Soviet technician working on Sputnik 1.

1958 The United States' first satellite, Explorer 1 is launched into orbit by a Juno 1 rocket.

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1958 The United States’ first satellite, Explorer 1 is launched into orbit by a Juno 1 rocket.

1959 An unidentified Project Mercury astronaut trains in a water tank at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Virginia. He is likely practising to escape from the capsule after splashdown.

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1959 An unidentified Project Mercury astronaut trains in a water tank at Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Virginia. He is likely practising to escape from the capsule after splashdown.

1960 Portrait of the initial seven Project Mercury astronauts as they pose in pressure suits at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, March 17, 1960. Pictured are (from left) US astronauts Walter M. Schirra, John Glenn, Virgil I. Grissom, Donald K. Slayton, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, and Alan B. Shepard.

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1960 Portrait of the initial seven Project Mercury astronauts as they pose in pressure suits at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, March 17, 1960. Pictured are (from left) US astronauts Walter M. Schirra, John Glenn, Virgil I. Grissom, Donald K. Slayton, Gordon Cooper, Scott Carpenter, and Alan B. Shepard.

1961 Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin on his way to become the first person to orbit the Earth in the Soviet rocket Vostok 1.

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1961 Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin on his way to become the first person to orbit the Earth in the Soviet rocket Vostok 1.

1961 US astronaut Alan Shepard waits for the Mercury capsule Freedom 7 to be launched into space at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Shepard, one of the seven original NASA astronauts, became the first American in space when the capsule was launched to an altitude of 117 miles, making a 15-minute suborbital flight of 302 miles down the Atlantic missile range before splashing into the ocean.

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1961 US astronaut Alan Shepard waits for the Mercury capsule Freedom 7 to be launched into space at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Shepard, one of the seven original NASA astronauts, became the first American in space when the capsule was launched to an altitude of 117 miles, making a 15-minute suborbital flight of 302 miles down the Atlantic missile range before splashing into the ocean.

1961 A helicopter lifts Alan Shepard from the Freedom 7 spacecraft over the Atlantic Ocean east of Cape Canaveral.

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1961 A helicopter lifts Alan Shepard from the Freedom 7 spacecraft over the Atlantic Ocean east of Cape Canaveral.

1961 Several men open the space capsule of Ham the Space Chimp after his historic flight on a recovery ship off Cape Canaveral.

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1961 Several men open the space capsule of Ham the Space Chimp after his historic flight on a recovery ship off Cape Canaveral.

1961 This Soviet spacecraft was manned by cosmonaut Novitch Titov. The spaceship, Vostok 2, circled the Earth for more than 24 hours in a test of humans' ability to survive prolonged exposure to the unknown perils of space.

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1961 This Soviet spacecraft was manned by cosmonaut Novitch Titov. The spaceship, Vostok 2, circled the Earth for more than 24 hours in a test of humans’ ability to survive prolonged exposure to the unknown perils of space.

1962 John Glenn shows President Kennedy the Friendship 7, the space capsule that carried Glenn around the world three times in orbit. Glenn is wearing the medal presented to him by Kennedy. Vice President Lyndon Johnson is behind Kennedy.

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1962 John Glenn shows President Kennedy the Friendship 7, the space capsule that carried Glenn around the world three times in orbit. Glenn is wearing the medal presented to him by Kennedy. Vice President Lyndon Johnson is behind Kennedy.

1963 The Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova is pictured training at Moscow's space center. On June 16, 1963, she took off on board the Vostok 6 and orbited Earth 48 times over a 70-hour period of time. This made her the first woman to have travelled in space. After this achievement, she received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

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1963 The Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova is pictured training at Moscow’s space center. On June 16, 1963, she took off on board the Vostok 6 and orbited Earth 48 times over a 70-hour period of time. This made her the first woman to have travelled in space. After this achievement, she received the title of Hero of the Soviet Union.

1965 A still from the documentary film The Man Walking In Space, which followed Russian astronaut Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov on his famous orbit in the spacecraft Voskhod 2. On March 18, 1965, Leonov left the spacecraft for 10 minutes to become the first man ever to walk in space.

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1965 A still from the documentary film The Man Walking In Space, which followed Russian astronaut Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov on his famous orbit in the spacecraft Voskhod 2. On March 18, 1965, Leonov left the spacecraft for 10 minutes to become the first man ever to walk in space.

1965 The first spacewalk in US history was made by astronaut Edward H. White during the Gemini 4 mission.

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1965 The first spacewalk in US history was made by astronaut Edward H. White during the Gemini 4 mission.

1966 Taken from the spacecraft Gemini 8 as astronaut Neil Armstrong manoeuvres his capsule toward the Agena Rocket.

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1966 Taken from the spacecraft Gemini 8 as astronaut Neil Armstrong manoeuvres his capsule toward the Agena Rocket.

1967 Apollo 11 astronauts train in a mock spacecraft at Cape Kennedy (later Cape Canaveral), Florida.

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1967 Apollo 11 astronauts train in a mock spacecraft at Cape Kennedy (later Cape Canaveral), Florida.

1967 A Vostok rocket on display at the 50 Years of Soviet Science and Engineering exhibition in Budapest, Hungary.

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1967 A Vostok rocket on display at the 50 Years of Soviet Science and Engineering exhibition in Budapest, Hungary.

1968 President Johnson, like millions of other Americans, sat glued to his television sets on Dec. 27 during the critical stage of the Apollo 8 mission in which astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders splashed into the Pacific at the end of their epochal voyage around the moon. The president sipped a cup of tea as he watched.

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1968 President Johnson, like millions of other Americans, sat glued to his television sets on Dec. 27 during the critical stage of the Apollo 8 mission in which astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders splashed into the Pacific at the end of their epochal voyage around the moon. The president sipped a cup of tea as he watched.

1969 The Apollo 11 mission gets underway at 9:32 a.m., as the Saturn V rocket, carrying the spacecraft on its nose, blasts off. This photo shows a small part of the vast throng that flocked to Cocoa Beach to witness the spectacle seconds after ignition. Apollo 11 landed the first men on the moon.

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1969 The Apollo 11 mission gets underway at 9:32 a.m., as the Saturn V rocket, carrying the spacecraft on its nose, blasts off. This photo shows a small part of the vast throng that flocked to Cocoa Beach to witness the spectacle seconds after ignition. Apollo 11 landed the first men on the moon.

1969 Former US first lady Bird Johnson (in polka-dot dress, centre), her husband, former president Lyndon B. Johnson (in dark suit) and vice president Spiro T. Agnew (holding a glass, far right) stand among a crowd watching the launch of the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 spacecraft on its mission to carry out the first ever manned lunar landing, Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

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1969 Former US first lady Bird Johnson (in polka-dot dress, centre), her husband, former president Lyndon B. Johnson (in dark suit) and vice president Spiro T. Agnew (holding a glass, far right) stand among a crowd watching the launch of the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 spacecraft on its mission to carry out the first ever manned lunar landing, Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

1969 Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon, with Neil Armstrong reflected in his visor.

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1969 Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon, with Neil Armstrong reflected in his visor.

1969 The Apollo 11 lunar module ascent stage photographed from the command service module during rendezvous in lunar orbit. Planet Earth is visible above the lunar horizon.

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1969 The Apollo 11 lunar module ascent stage photographed from the command service module during rendezvous in lunar orbit. Planet Earth is visible above the lunar horizon.

1969 President Richard M Nixon addresses astronauts (from left) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, in their mobile quarantine facility aboard the USS Hornet. The astronauts were recovered from the Pacific Ocean on July 24 near Hawaii, after the first successful manned space flight to the moon. They will remain in quarantine for three weeks.

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1969 President Richard M Nixon addresses astronauts (from left) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin, in their mobile quarantine facility aboard the USS Hornet. The astronauts were recovered from the Pacific Ocean on July 24 near Hawaii, after the first successful manned space flight to the moon. They will remain in quarantine for three weeks.

1969 Portrait of (from left) Aldrin, Collins, and Armstrong, the crew of NASA's Apollo 11 mission to the moon, as they pose on a model of the moon.

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1969 Portrait of (from left) Aldrin, Collins, and Armstrong, the crew of NASA’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon, as they pose on a model of the moon.

1970 Apollo 13 astronauts treading water as they await their recovery helicopter.

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1970 Apollo 13 astronauts treading water as they await their recovery helicopter.

1971 A mock-up of the Soviet-built Salyut 1 space station, launched into orbit around the Earth by the Soviet Union in April 1971. The Soviet cosmonaut crew members Vladislav Volkov, Georgy Dobrovolsky, and Viktor Patsayev would be killed when their spacecraft Soyuz 11 depressurised prior to their return to Earth on June 30, 1971, after successfully docking with the Salyut 1 space station.

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1971 A mock-up of the Soviet-built Salyut 1 space station, launched into orbit around the Earth by the Soviet Union in April 1971. The Soviet cosmonaut crew members Vladislav Volkov, Georgy Dobrovolsky, and Viktor Patsayev would be killed when their spacecraft Soyuz 11 depressurised prior to their return to Earth on June 30, 1971, after successfully docking with the Salyut 1 space station.

1975 Commander of the Soviet crew of Soyuz Alexei Leonov (left) and commander of the American crew of Apollo Thomas Stafford, shake hands on July 17, 1975, somewhere over Western Germany, after the Apollo–Soyuz docking manoeuvres. This was the first time the two nations met in space — supposedly ending the Space Race that had come before it.

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1975 Commander of the Soviet crew of Soyuz Alexei Leonov (left) and commander of the American crew of Apollo Thomas Stafford, shake hands on July 17, 1975, somewhere over Western Germany, after the Apollo–Soyuz docking manoeuvres. This was the first time the two nations met in space — supposedly ending the Space Race that had come before it.

1981 The first manned shuttle, Columbia, crewed by Robert Crippen and John Young, was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 12, 1981. Columbia orbited 36 times before landing safely back on Earth. The Space Shuttle, the world's first partially reusable launch vehicle, has been used for all manned US space missions ever since. Columbia successfully completed 28 missions before being lost, together with its crew of seven, on re-entry over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003.

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1981 The first manned shuttle, Columbia, crewed by Robert Crippen and John Young, was launched from the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, Florida, on April 12, 1981. Columbia orbited 36 times before landing safely back on Earth. The Space Shuttle, the world’s first partially reusable launch vehicle, has been used for all manned US space missions ever since. Columbia successfully completed 28 missions before being lost, together with its crew of seven, on re-entry over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003.

1986 Huge smoke trails resulting from the fatal explosion of the Challenger shuttle 73 seconds after takeoff.

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1986 Huge smoke trails resulting from the fatal explosion of the Challenger shuttle 73 seconds after takeoff.

1991 Soyuz TM-12 cosmonauts Helen Sharman, Anatoly Artsebarsky, and Sergei Krikalev prior to launch. Sharman was the first British person to go to space.

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1991 Soyuz TM-12 cosmonauts Helen Sharman, Anatoly Artsebarsky, and Sergei Krikalev prior to launch. Sharman was the first British person to go to space.

2003 Astronaut Yang Liwei lies in the re-entry capsule of the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft during training on Sept. 27, 2003, in Beijing.

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2003 Astronaut Yang Liwei lies in the re-entry capsule of the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft during training on Sept. 27, 2003, in Beijing.

2012 Taikonauts Liu Yang, Jing Haipeng, and Liu Wang attend a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 15, 2012, in Jiuquan, China. The Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft carrying three crew members launched at 6:37 p.m. on June 16, performing the country's first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab.

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2012 Taikonauts Liu Yang, Jing Haipeng, and Liu Wang attend a press conference at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 15, 2012, in Jiuquan, China. The Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft carrying three crew members launched at 6:37 p.m. on June 16, performing the country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab.

2012 A photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan space center shows three Chinese astronauts (from left) Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng, and Liu Yang in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft in preparation for docking with the Tiangong-1 module on July 18, 2012. Three Chinese astronauts entered an orbiting module for the first time, a key step towards the nation's first space station, in a move broadcast live on China's state television network. China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to have perfect docking technology.

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2012 A photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan space center shows three Chinese astronauts (from left) Liu Wang, Jing Haipeng, and Liu Yang in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft in preparation for docking with the Tiangong-1 module on July 18, 2012. Three Chinese astronauts entered an orbiting module for the first time, a key step towards the nation’s first space station, in a move broadcast live on China’s state television network. China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to have perfect docking technology.

2012 A man takes a picture from a rooftop as the Endeavour Space Shuttle makes its way toward the California Science Center on Oct. 13, 2012, in Inglewood, California. Endeavour is on its last mission — a 12-mile creep through city streets, past an eclectic mix of strip malls, mom-and-pop shops, tidy lawns, and faded apartment buildings. Its final destination is the California Science Center in South Los Angeles where it will be put on display. NASA's Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011 after 30 years and 135 missions.

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2012 A man takes a picture from a rooftop as the Endeavour Space Shuttle makes its way toward the California Science Center on Oct. 13, 2012, in Inglewood, California. Endeavour is on its last mission — a 12-mile creep through city streets, past an eclectic mix of strip malls, mom-and-pop shops, tidy lawns, and faded apartment buildings. Its final destination is the California Science Center in South Los Angeles where it will be put on display. NASA’s Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011 after 30 years and 135 missions.

2013 Chinese chief mission commander Zhang Youxia salutes after he announced the successful launch of the Shenzhou-10 rocket from the Jiuquan space centre in the Gobi Desert in Jiuquan, in northwest China's Gansu Province on June 11, 2013. China began its longest manned space mission yet on June 11 with the launch of the Shenzhou-10, state television showed, as the country stepped up an ambitious exploration programme symbolising its growing power.

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2013 Chinese chief mission commander Zhang Youxia salutes after he announced the successful launch of the Shenzhou-10 rocket from the Jiuquan space centre in the Gobi Desert in Jiuquan, in northwest China’s Gansu Province on June 11, 2013. China began its longest manned space mission yet on June 11 with the launch of the Shenzhou-10, state television showed, as the country stepped up an ambitious exploration programme symbolising its growing power.

2013 The Long March 2F rocket carrying China's manned Shenzhou-10 spacecraft blasts off from a launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 11, 2013, in Jiuquan, Gansu Province. China's latest manned spacecraft blasted off on a 15-day mission to dock with a space lab.

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2013 The Long March 2F rocket carrying China’s manned Shenzhou-10 spacecraft blasts off from a launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on June 11, 2013, in Jiuquan, Gansu Province. China’s latest manned spacecraft blasted off on a 15-day mission to dock with a space lab.

2013 Chinese astronauts Zhang Xiaoguang, Nie Haisheng, and Wang Yaping salute after getting out of the re-entry capsule of China's Shenzhou X spacecraft following its successful landing at the main landing site on June 26, 2013, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. The astronauts returned after a 15-day trip to a prototype space station.

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2013 Chinese astronauts Zhang Xiaoguang, Nie Haisheng, and Wang Yaping salute after getting out of the re-entry capsule of China’s Shenzhou X spacecraft following its successful landing at the main landing site on June 26, 2013, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. The astronauts returned after a 15-day trip to a prototype space station.

2018 A self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the robot at a drilled sample site called "Duluth" on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in Mars on June 20, 2018. A Martian dust storm reduced sunlight and visibility in Gale Crater. The north-northeast wall and rim of the crater lie beyond the rover, their visibility obscured by atmospheric dust.

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2018 A self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the robot at a drilled sample site called “Duluth” on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in Mars on June 20, 2018. A Martian dust storm reduced sunlight and visibility in Gale Crater. The north-northeast wall and rim of the crater lie beyond the rover, their visibility obscured by atmospheric dust.

2019 In this handout photo provided by NASA, the object nicknamed "Ultima Thule" is photographed by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons spacecraft on Jan. 1, 2019. It was taken just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles. The object, the most distant ever explored, is known as a "contact binary". It likely began as two separate objects that joined together over time.

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2019 In this handout photo provided by NASA, the object nicknamed “Ultima Thule” is photographed by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on the New Horizons spacecraft on Jan. 1, 2019. It was taken just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles. The object, the most distant ever explored, is known as a “contact binary”. It likely began as two separate objects that joined together over time.

2019 In this photo provided by the China National Space Administration via Xinhua News Agency, Yutu-2, China's lunar rover, leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. China's space agency says that all systems are go for its spacecraft and rover, which have made a pioneering landing on the far side of the moon.

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2019 In this photo provided by the China National Space Administration via Xinhua News Agency, Yutu-2, China’s lunar rover, leaves wheel marks after leaving the lander that touched down on the surface of the far side of the moon. China’s space agency says that all systems are go for its spacecraft and rover, which have made a pioneering landing on the far side of the moon.

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