More than 50 years of space!

First signals from Sputnik

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04 October 2007

On 4 October 1957, a modified Soviet missile lifted off from Kazakhstan carrying a small metal ball - the world’s first satellite. Known as Sputnik (‘Companion’ or ‘Satellite’), the basketball-sized sphere became a sensation as it circled the planet transmitting a ‘beep beep’ signal. The world was never the same again.

In the early years of the Space Age, the American and Soviet superpowers led the race to dominate space. However, many other countries, notably in Europe and Asia, also began to develop their own satellite and launcher programmes. Today, the European Space Agency alone has 18 Member States. Many of the major breakthroughs in space exploration were born in Europe, from rocket design to geostationary orbit.

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Half a century after Sputnik, space technology is part of our everyday lives. We rely on satellites for TV and long-distance phone calls, weather forecasting, navigation and disaster monitoring. Space observatories are studying the birth of planets, stars, galaxies and the Universe itself. Spacecraft have visited almost every major body in the Solar System. And 12 people have walked on the Moon.

Artist's impression of ExoMars rover arrival at the Red Planet

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If the last 50 years mark the beginning of a new era for the human race, who knows what will be achieved in the next half century? Perhaps you will be one of the first people to spend a holiday on the Moon or set foot on Mars.

50 years of Space