NASA, which stands for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, turns 62 this year. Since 1958, this organization has completed hundreds of missions that had different goals and purposes. Some of them were aimed to explore the deep corners of our solar system, while others focused on the Moon or the Earth itself. We prepared a list of the ten most amazing and most important missions launched by NASA that can blow your mind.
Viking 1 probe landed on Mars in 1976, and it became the first artificial object that soft-landed on our red neighbor. Although the USSR also tried to explore Mars, Mars 2 and 3 probes failed to land properly. Not only did Viking 1 become the first successful mission to Mars, but it also became the longest-running mission to the surface of the red planet, as it lasted for more than six years.
Thanks to the color shots of the Martian surface obtained from this spacecraft, people could take a closer look at this planet. The purpose of the Viking mission was also to look for any possible signs of life. None of the two Viking spacecraft, however, found any chemical activity that could suggest that the red planet hosts living organisms.
2. Friendship 7
In 1962, the USA still couldn’t brag about sending a man into orbit, which was very important for beating the Soviets in the space race. Besides, the U.S. was already planning to get men to the moon. Friendship 7 allowed NASA to demonstrate its ability to launch properly planned manned missions. A new Atlas rocket took off on February 20, 1962, and delivered Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn into orbit around our planet.
Friendship 7 spent almost five hours on orbit and landed 800 miles south of Bermuda. Thanks to this mission, NASA tested the capabilities of the new rocket and proved that astronauts can successfully complete space missions.
Although this mission isn’t as famous as the previous two, it enabled us to take a glimpse into the past. WMAP, which stands for the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, was launched in 2001. Thanks to incredibly accurate measurements of the cosmic background radiation, NASA managed to map zones of radiation and their temperature.
This information enabled many astronomers and physicists to better understand what our universe looked like 380,000 years after it was born. The data collected by the probe confirmed many experts’ predictions regarding the hot and cold zones and showed us that the universe was already almost uniform in its temperature more than 14 billion years ago.
4. Gemini IV
By 1965, NASA has already learned what it needed about orbit. However, scientists and engineers still had many questions that stopped them from sending pilots to the Moon. One of the crucial aspects of preparation was spacewalking, and Gemini missions allowed NASA to test the necessary techniques. Gemini IV was launched in 1965. Edward H. White II became the first astronaut in space. His spacewalk was a complete success and lasted for 36 minutes.
Cassini-Huygens was a joint spacecraft launched by NASA and ESA in 1997. In 2004, it reached Saturn and started taking incredible photos of Saturn’s rings and weather. The Huygens probe also landed on Titan in 2005. Although astronomers have studied Titan for many years, Cassini became the first spacecraft to take a closer look at this satellite.
Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 followed the Pioneers probes which visited Saturn and Jupiter. Thanks to the Voyagers, NASA collected a lot of information about these gas giants. For example, the probes delivered many images of Jupiter’s rings and evidence of volcanic activity on its moon Io. After that, both crafts flew by Uranus and Neptune and then continued to move further toward the edge of the solar system.
Voyager 1 is the farthest man-made object to date, as it is currently more than 12 billion miles away from Earth. The Voyagers also have enough power to keep transmitting their signals until 2025.
7. Spirit and Opportunity
These twin Mars Exploration Rovers were expected to complete a 90-day mission but continued to work long after landing on the opposite sides of Mars in 2004. Opportunity ended its mission only in 2018 after it failed to recharge its battery. These rovers collected a lot of information about the surface of Mars and obtained evidence of the presence of liquid water.
This mission became the biggest event in the history of Mars exploration after the launch of the Sojourner rover that delivered beautiful close-ups of the red planet in 1997, when the internet became widely popular. Since then, hundreds of websites around the world have translated NASA’s articles about Mars. Thanks to professional translation services like The Word Point, any blogger can translate available materials about these missions into any language.
The Curiosity rover was launched in 2011. It carried countless advanced scientific systems and tools and successfully landed in 2012, using a completely new landing system that includes rockets and a parachute. Curiosity was aimed to find out whether Mars has ever had the right conditions for life to exist. Thanks to the Curiosity mission, now scientists know that Mars used to have microbial life.
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most well-known Nasa’s spacecraft that changed the way we see ourselves and the universe we’re living in. This is a huge optical telescope located far from the Earth’s turbulent atmosphere that has been a reason for countless scientific breakthroughs, delivering highly detailed images of other galaxies, nebulae, stars, and planets.
10. Apollo 11
Apollo 11 is probably the best known NASA’s mission and one of its greatest achievements. This mission was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind, ” as Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the Moon. In 1969, more than 500 million people around the world were watching this mission on TV.
NASA has become a synonym for advanced technology and made a significant contribution to engineering and science. All NASA’s achievements only became possible because of its missions into space. Thanks to these missions, we know more about the universe we’re living in, being able to plan further steps in our exploration of space.
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