Nothing says curiosity like outer space. Below are four of the most interesting expeditions in the history of human (and canine) space travel. We have lift off.
Laika the space dog
Fortunately for creatures with four legs, the concept of launching a canine into space is a faint and distant, if not altogether archaic, memory. In 1957, however, a Russian dog, Laika, did exactly that.
In the infancy of human space exploration, many believed that the conditions experienced upon leaving the earth’s atmosphere would be too extreme for human survival–enter Laika, the Russian stray.
Laika was selected out of a pool of two other canine candidates to be launched into outer space, but unfortunately she would never return. Prior to the launch, Russian scientists were not allotted enough time to develop a reentry vehicle, and consequently, Laika’s first mission would be her last.
On Nov. 3, 1957 Laika was shot successfully into orbit and though she survived the initial journey, she would shortly thereafter die of what first was pronounced as a lack of oxygen, but later revealed to be overheating just hours into her orbit.
Just four years later, Yuri Gagarin became the first human launched successfully into outer space. In Laika’s memory a small statue was erected just outside of the military research facility in Moscow where Laika’s mission was hatched.
Though The Voyager’s story began over 40 years ago with it’s momentous launch in 1977, it continues, at this very second, to probe deep space in hopes of uncovering interstellar mysteries, or possibly even contacting alien spacefarers.
In 2013 NASA announced that The Voyager has successfully journeyed through the heliosphere–a gigantic magnetic bubble which contains our solar system–and is continuing its quest into the depths of interstellar space and eventually the outer reaches of our universe.
Given that The Voyager’s original mission was only to study Jupiter, Saturn, and their larger moons, it’s safe to say that The Voyager continues to be a success story of cosmic proportions. The spacecraft has just enough fuel to continue its propulsion until 2025.
The International Space and Earth Explorer or, ISEE-3, was launched originally in 1978 and delivered information to scientists until 1998, when NASA decided to pull the plug. Since then, ISEE-3 has been completely inactive–that is until earlier this year.
A group of mostly civilian engineers, programmers, and scientists raised enough money via crowdfunding earlier this year to proceed in their goal of bringing ISEE-3 back to earth’s orbit.
After raising $159,602, the team, working out of an abandoned McDonald’s, developed software capable of communicating with the satellite in hopes of utilizing it’s on board thrusters to propel it into earth’s orbit.
Though the thrusters turned out to be shot, the team was still victorious in reanimating ISEE-3 for data collection, which it plans to provide to civilians in the years to follow.
Recently the ISEE-3 has teamed up with google and created a riveting interactive rundown of their continuing ISEE-3 plans. It’s titled, A Spacecraft for All.
Mars Curiosity Rover
The aptly named Curiosity rover has been, both literally and figuratively, digging for Martian clues since its successful landing in 2012.
Since the start of its mission, it has uncovered volumes of surprising data that points towards a Mars which at one point, was habitable by microbes, a precursor to human life.
Maybe the most captivating part of Curiosity is its high-tech arsenal of reconnaissance equipment which allows the rover to analyze material, travel long distances, and even send us high definition panoramas like the one below.