Space travel firsts
Fifty-five years ago this month, two monkeys made history (28 May 1959) when they were the first living creatures to survive space flight. Able and Baker were fired 300 miles into space from Cape Canaveral in Florida and reached speeds up to 10,000mph. The flight lasted 15 minutes and they were recovered 1,500 miles away in the South Atlantic near Puerto Rico and the mission’s success paved the way for space travel for humans.
Here are some other firsts for space…
On 21 July 1969 the Americans won the space race with Russia as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. He stepped on to the moon’s surface at 0256 20 minutes after opening the hatch on the landing craft. He is famously reported to have said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He was joined by fellow astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin 20 minutes later to collect data and perform exercises including jumping across the moon’s surface. They then planted a Stars and Stripes flag and unveiled a plaque with the inscription, “Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.”
The first mission to successfully broadcast colour television pictures from the surface of the Moon was the Apollo 14 mission in 1971 – America’s third successful lunar landing mission. While on the Moon, Flight Commander Alan Shepard used a six-iron golf club head to drive golf balls, creating yet another first for the crew.
The Russian Space Agency was the first organisation to offer flights for space tourists. Generating an income for the company Space Adventures of US $20-40 million, seats were available to the general public up until 2010.
Virgin Galactic – the brainchild of Richard Branson – is planning the first public flight of a space ship this year. With seats costing $250,000 each and passengers having to complete G-force training, current celebrities rumoured to have signed up for the maiden flight include Ashton Kutcher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Katy Perry.