To Menu

Astro-Trivia:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4

farthest galaxy

The most distant galaxy yet observed (2015) has been designated EGS-zs8-1. Originally discovered by the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes, the galaxy's distance from Earth has just been confirmed by astronomers using the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The observatory's measurements place the galaxy at a record-breaking distance of 13.1 billion lightyears from Earth. Read details. The second most distant galaxy is z8-GND-5296, discovered in 2013.

first man in orbit

On April 12th, 1961, Soviet Air Force Major, Yuri Gagarin, piloting the spacecraft Vostok 1 became the first man to orbit the Earth. At a maximum height of 327 km above the Earth's surface, and travelling at 29,000km/h, Gagarin's flight completed one full orbit and lasted only 108 minutes. For his bravery and pioneering flight, Gagarin became an international celebrity and was awarded his country's highest honours: Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin, and Pilot Cosmonaut of the Soviet Union. Sadly, on March 28th, 1968, Gagarin was killed when his MIG-15 crashed.

first men on the moon

On July 20th, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin landed the Eagle spacecraft on the Moon, the culmination of NASA's Apollo 11 mission.

first planet fly-by

NASA's Mariner 2 was the first spacecraft to complete an interplanetary mission successfully, and the first to fly by another planet. Bound for Venus, Mariner 2 was launched on August 27, 1962. The spacecraft's closest approach to the planet was on December 14, 1962, at a distance of 34,773 km, or 21,606 miles. The data supplied by Mariner 2 revealed Venus' slow rate of retrograde rotation; its hot surface temperature (500 degrees Celcius), as well as its high surface pressures; predominantly carbon dioxide atmosphere and continuous cloud cover, with a top altitude of about 60 km; and no detectable magnetic field. Mariner 2's solar wind experiment was the first to measure the solar wind's density, velosity, composition and variation over time.

Yuri Gagarin

Yuri Gagarin

NASA Astronaut, 
John Glenn, and President John F. Kennedy inspect the Friendship 7 spacecraft, 1962

John Glenn & Pres. J.F. Kennedy inspecting Friendship 7

Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 - First spacecraft to Jupiter

first spacecraft

The first space vehicle to go into orbit around the Earth was launched on October 4th, 1957, the 40th anniversary of the Communist seizure of power in the Russian Revolution. Sputnik I weighed only 185 pounds, and travelled at 17,500 m.p.h, at that time, the highest speed ever achieved by a man-made object.

first spacecraft through asteroid belt

Launched on March 2, 1972, NASA's Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid Belt on its way to Jupiter.

first spacecraft to jupiter

On December 3, 1973, NASA's Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to reach Jupiter and to make direct observations of the gas giant. Passing within 81,000 miles of the planet, Pioneer 10 took close-up images of it and its moons, and made observations of Jupiter's magnetosphere, radiation belts, magnetic field, atmosphere, and interior. These findings were crucial to NASA's planning future missions to Jupiter, such as Voyager 1, Galileo and Cassini-Huygens.

first spacecraft to orbit moon

The Soviet Union’s Luna 10 was the first spacecraft to enter orbit around the Moon, and the first man-made object to orbit any body beyond the Earth. Launched on March 31st, 1966, Luna 10 entered lunar orbit three days later. On April 4th, the spacecraft completed its first circuit around the Moon, coinciding with the morning session of the 23rd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow. Data gathered by Luna 10 showed, among other things, that the Moon had a non-existent magnetic field; no discernable atmosphere; and a highly distorted gravity field, suggesting a non-uniform distribution of mass. Additionally, compositional information revealed that the Moon’s surface is similar to terrestrial basalt. Luna 10 operated for 56 days, completing 460 lunar orbits and 219 active data transmissions. Signals finally ceased on May 30th, 1966.

first spacecraft to saturn

On September 1, 1979, NASA's Pioneer 11 became the first spacecraft to reach Saturn and to make direct observations of that planet. The spacecraft's path through Saturn's outer rings took it to within 21,000 km of the planet, and in so doing Pioneer 11 discovered two new moons as well as Saturn's F-Ring. Pioneer 11 took images of Saturn's atmosphere, showing it to be less turbulent than Jupiter's; recorded the planet's overall temperature (-180C); studied its magnetic field and mapped the general structure of the planet's interior. Based on Pioneer's data, astronomers were able to surmise that Saturn is composed primarily of liquid hydrogen with a core of about ten Earth masses.

first spacewalk

The first person to walk in space was Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Arkhipovich Leonov, on March 18, 1965, during the Voskhod 2 mission. Leonov's spacewalk lasted 12 minutes. To read more about this historic event click here.

first u.s. astronaut in orbit

John Herschel Glenn, Jr., was born on July 18th, 1921. After serving in the United States Marine Corps as a pilot, he was selected by NASA to be one of the Mercury Seven, elite test pilots for the Mercury spacecraft programme. On February 20th, 1962, he flew the Friendship 7 mission, and in so doing became the third American in space, and the first to orbit the Earth. The mission lasted four hours and 56 minutes, after which the Mercury spacecraft re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean. Glenn and his Mercury spacecraft were later retrieved by the USS Noa. On October 29th, 1998, at 77 years old, he became the oldest person to fly in space, aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. He is also the only person to have flown in both the Mercury and Space Shuttle programmes.