In the 1950s and early '60s, a small band of high-altitude pioneers exposed themselves to the extreme forces of the space age long before NASA's acclaimed Mercury 7 would make headlines. Though largely forgotten today, balloonists were the first to venture into the frozen near-vacuum on the edge of our world, exploring the very limits of human physiology and human ingenuity in this lethal realm.
In summer 2013, the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way was getting ready to feast. A gas cloud three times the size of our planet strayed within the gravitational reach of our nearest supermassive black hole. Across the globe, telescopes were being trained on the heart of our galaxy, some 27,000 light years from Earth, in the expectation of observing this unique cosmic spectacle. For cosmic detectives across the Earth, it was a unique opportunity. For the first time in the history of science, they hoped to observe in action the awesome spectacle of a feeding supermassive black hole.
New technologies are making rockets cheaper and more powerful than ever before. As companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic make space more accessible, and NASA returns to crewed spaceflight, a new era of space exploration may be on the horizon.