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16 July 2019

Milestones and Curiosities of the Space Race

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It’s been 50 years already since, on July 20, 1969, the first person stepped on the moon. In OpenMind, we want to celebrate this very special anniversary by recounting some of the ins and outs, particularities and most revealing data of this historic achievement.

“A small step for man, a giant leap for mankind” Neil Armstrong

What was the name of the first program that took a man to the moon?


The project launched in July 1960, when NASA, the U.S. space agency, announced the program as a follow-up to Project Mercury, NASA’s first human spaceflight program. The purpose of the Apollo Program was to fly a spacecraft around our satellite to find an adequate zone for an eventual crewed lunar landing. This was a first step to making humanity’s longstanding dream to travel to the moon come true, which finally happened in July 1969.

You can check our chronology of the conquest of space here.

Margaret Hamilton played a key role in the success of the first landing, by creating a code that …


Margaret Hamilton was a programmer that anticipated a potential disaster and secured the lunar landing of the Apollo 11 mission. And this was one of her greatest achievements: during the development of the operating system for the Apollo missions, the task exception and asynchronous workload system that played a key role in the critical stage of the Apollo 11 landing, when an alarm lit up on the astronauts’ control panel showing errors 1201 and error 1202.

Which animal was the first one launched into Earth orbit?


On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, the country’s leader, Nikita Khrushchev, aimed to build on the impact of the success of the first Sputnik mission to send a clear message to the world. On November 3, 1957, the Sputnik 2 took off, assembled in a less than a month and equipped instruments to measure instruments to measure cosmic rays and solar radiation in the form of X-rays and ultraviolet rays.  But the most memorable part of the satellite’s cargo was its passenger, the dog Laika. Learn more here.

Who was the first human in Space?


When the Soviet Union launched the first human into space, it was always one step ahead of the U.S. By 1957 it already had flown the first artificial satellite ever into orbit – Sputnik 1 – and launched the first living organism into space. Learn more about the life of this military pilot.

And the first human to die in a space flight?


Three months after the death of the three crew members of the Apollo 1 mission in a fire during a launch drill, on April 24, 1967, a Russian cosmonaut became the first person to die in space flight. But, what caused this tragedy? Read more here.

And the first man to step on the Moon?


NASA’s next space flight after the Apollo 1 disaster was manned by three astronauts. This post wonderfully explains how this initial disaster paved the way for the first lunar landing.

Where was the first message spoken from the moon’s surface heard first?


José Manuel Grandela, a former Spanish engineer at INTA-NASA, recounts in this post how the team on Earth reacted to the announcement and his participation on the race to conquer the moon in the OpenMind podcast.

The moon has once again become a priority for earth. This time, it’s a mineral that’s fuelling the race. But which one?


If you’ve listened to the OpenMind podcast commemorating the first lunar landing, you already know that, when it comes to space exploration, there are plenty of reasons to persevere. Learn about it first-hand from the Pedro Duque, former NASA astronaut and current Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities of the Government of Spain; Walter Cunningham, astronaut, pilot during NASA’s Apollo 7 mission; José Manuel Grandelaformer INTA-NASA engineer and Santa Martínez, coordinator of scientific processing at the BepiColombo mission of the European Space Agency (ESA).


Paz Palacios

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