A look at the surprising history of the earliest rocket pioneers

Cover of the book From the Earth to Mars.

Enlarge / Cover of the book From the Earth to Mars. (credit: Multiverse Media Inc.)

When did spaceflight begin? There is no single answer.

For newcomers to space, the beginning of time can be traced to as recently as December 2015. That’s when SpaceX landed its Falcon 9 rocket successfully for the first time, opening the modern era of rapid, reusable spaceflight. Increasingly, anything that came before feels anachronistic.

But for those with a bit more perspective, the dawn of spaceflight can be pushed back further back into time, to the 1957 launch of the Soviet Sputnik satellite that shocked the world. This small orbiting spacecraft kicked off the frenetic space race that culminated with NASA’s Apollo 11 Moon landing just a dozen years later.

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