Space Exploration

Space Exploration

In 1957, the first spacecraft, Russia's Sputnik 1, orbited the Earth. This began the 'Space Age'. Since then, spacecraft have explored all of the planets and many of the moons and asteroids of our Solar System.
Unmanned spacecraft, called space probes, are used for several kinds of exploration. Some probes pass by or orbit their target to take pictures and measurements. Other probes land to collect samples and conduct experiments.

What do spacecraft look for?
Space probes have scientific instruments that take readings and measurements. This information is then converted into radio waves and beamed back to Earth. Cameras and telescopes are used to view light and rays, such as infrared, ultra-violet and microwaves. Many probes also have gravity and magnetism sensors, as well as detectors for particles such as space dust.

Human space exploration


The furthest that human astronauts have been is our Moon. Twelve US Apollo astronauts landed there between 1969 and 1972 Closer to home, the International Space Station (155) is the biggest base orbiting the Earth. Up to six people can live on board the ISS for several weeks at a time. They use telescopes to see far into space and carry out research on how gravity-free or weightless conditions affect the human body, animals and plants.

Fascinating Fact
• Only 12 people have walked on the Moon, starting with American astronauts Neil Armstrong on July 20, 1969.

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