On October 4, 1957, Sputnik I became the first man-made object sent into space. The USSR had begun humankind's space age and in the last 60 years, there has been no looking back. Like the age of exploration before it, the space age saw countries hustling to make their mark in exploration and research. What started out as a race between the USSR and the USA for prestige, weapons technology, and political dominance, grew to become a truly global club of space explorers.
In the late 1950s and 60s, the world was firmly in the grip of the Cold War and both the USA and the USSR wanted to dominate each other on the space front. The militaries of both the countries saw it as an opportunity for tactical advantage over one another. Take for instance, the fact that the USA launched a total of 28 satellites in 1957-59 despite that only 10 of these achieved their objectives. The USA's main aim here was to match up to the USSR's 100% launch record: the country launched only 6 satellites in the same time period, but all of them successfully. To match up to and better the USSR, Kennedy famously increased funding to the US space agency NASA by 500% in the 1960s and declared that before the decade was over the US would be the first country on the moon.
His word was made good by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin'Buzz' Aldrin on July 24, 1969. The USA's Apollo 11 landed on the moon and the US won the space race. In the two decades that followed, the US landed an unmanned mission on Mars, sent spacecrafts to the outer planets and sustained its dominance over world space exploration. Voyager 1 reached Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980 while Voyager 2 flew past Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989.
The rest of the world though had begun taking its first steps in the field. In the 1970s, China launched its first satellite, while India followed suit in 1975. With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russia's space program was dealt a heavy blow. This opened up the possibility for other countries, like India to gain importance on the world space stage. India reached the moon in 2009 and Mars in 2014. Even as the context for space superiority has changed over time, humankind's fascination with space continues unabated to the present day. Watch the video for a recap of the world's space age.
Watch: News18.com Originals | Humanity’s Space Story | 60 Years in Space (1957-2017)
Creatives: Hitesh Singh