If Christopher Columbus, Ferdinand Magellan, Amerigo Vespucci, and Vasco Da Gama helped Western civilization in the Age of Discovery reach new worlds, in the Space Age, Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, Valentina Tereshkova, and Neil Armstrong took humanity to Earth’s orbit and beyond. Those space pioneers launched our world into a realm that had been pondered by astronomers, philosophers, religious figures, science fiction writers and poets.
The Space Age paralleled the Cold War, and when the Soviet Union succeeded in launching Sputnik into space in 1957, it was seen as much a threat to U.S. national security as a scientific triumph. Sputnik’s success was the starting gun of the space race that put the prestige of nations on the line.
The competition for supremacy in space made national heroes of Gagarin, Glenn, Tereshkova, and Armstrong, among many other astronauts and cosmonauts in the 20th century. But it also accelerated technological advances and product developments such as water purifiers, adjustable smoke detectors and freeze-dried food that we take for granted today.
In the year that marks the 50th anniversary of humankind’s first steps on the moon, 24/7 Wall St. has compiled a list of the coolest and most unforgettable moments in space exploration.
To compile this list, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed material from NASA, Forbes, and the BBC, as well as websites such as archives.gov, themysteriousworld.com, complex.com, and phys.org.