Anyone who is familiar with the history of space travel knows that Russia has played a major role on this frontier. On October 4, 1957, Russia launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. Even people who are not familiar with astronomy and space are familiar with the name “Sputnik.”
Sputnik was launched on top of an R-7 rocket, starting out what came to be known as the Space Age. Approximately one month later, on November 3, 1957, Sputnik-2 was launched into space, with a dog named Laika on board. This was the first living creature to be launched into space.
In addition, Russia has accomplished many other “firsts” in the field of space travel. The former Soviet union intentionally crashed the Luna 2 spacecraft on the moon on September 14, 1959, and this spacecraft became the first man-made object to touch the surface of the moon. This led to the achievements made with future Luna spacecraft, such as snapping the first images of the far side of the moon and landing the first wheeled rover on the lunar surface in 1971.
The first human was launched into orbit by Russia on April 12, 1961 on the Vostok spacecraft, with the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on board. The Voskhod spacecraft came after this one, a modified version of the Voskhod, and was the first one to fly a crew of three people into space. Voskhod 1 was launched on October 12, 1964.
Then known as the Soviet Union, this nation started the era of manned space stations in the 1970s. Salyut 1 was launched on April 19, 1971. Although there was a great deal of adversity, including the death of the second crew of the Salyut 1 and failed launches to follow up, the Soviet Union was able to make the Salyut 6 and 7 stations the first operational stations and precipitate the development of NASA’s Mir Space Station.
On July 17, 1975, the then-Soviet Union launched two Soyuz cosmonauts into space. They met with three individuals from the United States who were on an Apollo spacecraft; this was the first diplomatic manned spaceflight and was a milestone during the time of the Cold War. The two spacecraft ended up docked for two days as a part of goodwill exchanges and scientific advances.
The nation also was the first to penetrate the cloud cover of Venus and provide the first images of the surface of Venus; this was a part of the Venera 9 and 10 missions that took place in 1975. Into the mid-1980s, there was a series of Venera probes that was relaying data and images from the surface of Venus to researchers that are still being studied and utilized in further research today.
Russia continues to remain at the forefront of space missions. Today, this nation is studying the psychological effects that would be experienced by people who would be a part of a crewed journey to Mars. Researchers in Russia have put together a mock Mars expedition habitat, and they are experimenting with what would happen with European scientists who are confined to this habitat for 520 days. During the past and present, Russia has taken it upon itself to assume a large role in space travel, and this nation will likely continue to do so n the future.