Staff and leadership

Space flight programs

Manned programs

X-15 rocket plane

Project Mercury

Project Gemini

Apollo program


Apollo–Soyuz Test Project

Space Shuttle program

International Space Station

Commercial programs

Beyond Low Earth Orbit program

Space exploration

Space exploration is the discovery and exploration of celestial structures in outer space by means of evolving and growing space technology. While the study of space is carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, the physical exploration of space is conducted both by unmanned robotic space probes and human spaceflight.
While the observation of objects in space, known as astronomy, predates reliable recorded history, it was the development of large and relatively efficient rockets during the mid-twentieth century that allowed physical space exploration to become a reality. Common rationales for exploring space include advancing scientific research, national prestige, uniting different nations, ensuring the future survival of humanity, and developing military and strategic advantages against other countries.
The first successful orbital launch was of the Soviet uncrewed Sputnik 1 ("Satellite 1") mission on 4 October 1957. The satellite weighed about 83 kg (183 lb), and is believed to have orbited Earth at a height of about 250 km (160 mi). It had two radio transmitters (20 and 40 MHz), which emitted "beeps" that could be heard by radios around the globe. Analysis of the radio signals was used to gather information about the electron density of the ionosphere, while temperature and pressure data was encoded in the duration of radio beeps. The results indicated that the satellite was not punctured by a meteoroid. Sputnik 1 was launched by an R-7 rocket. It burned up upon re-entry on 3 January 1958.
The first artificial object to reach another celestial body was Luna 2 reaching the Moon in 1959. The first soft landing on another celestial body was performed by Luna 9 landing on the Moon on February 3, 1966. Luna 10 became the first artificial satellite of the Moon, entering Moon Orbit on April 3, 1966.
The first interplanetary surface mission to return at least limited surface data from another planet was the 1970 landing of Venera 7 which returned data to Earth for 23 minutes from Venus. In 1975 the Venera 9 was the first to return images from the surface of another planet, returning images from Venus. In 1971 the Mars 3 mission achieved the first soft landing on Mars returning data for almost 20 seconds. Later much longer duration surface missions were achieved, including over six years of Mars surface operation by Viking 1 from 1975 to 1982 and over two hours of transmission from the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982, the longest ever Soviet planetary surface mission. Venus and Mars are the two planets outside of Earth we have conducted surface missions on with unmanned robotic spacecraft.
Initially the race for space was often led by Sergei Korolev, whose legacy includes both the R7 and Soyuz—which remain in service to this day. Korolev was the mastermind behind the first satellite, first man (and first woman) in orbit and first spacewalk. Until his death his identity was a closely guarded state secret; not even his mother knew that he was responsible for creating the Soviet space program.
Kerim Kerimov was one of the founders of the Soviet space program and was one of the lead architects behind the first human spaceflight (Vostok 1) alongside Sergey Korolev. After Korolev's death in 1966, Kerimov became the lead scientist of the Soviet space program and was responsible for the launch of the first space stations from 1971 to 1991, including the Salyut and Mir series, and their precursors in 1967, the Cosmos 186 and Cosmos 188.