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.
Mars One plans one-way missions to Mars; the goal is not simply to explore, but to colonize the red planet. A one-way trip saves billions and eliminates the risk of a return voyage. But can the crew survive in such utter isolation? Some candidates for the mission reflect on this challenge.
Landing humans on Mars will be hard, but keeping them alive will be even harder. NASA scientists are on the verge of designing some of the most innovative rockets and training the astronauts who will pilot them.
For centuries the giant planets floated on the fringes of the solar system as distant objects in the eyepieces of astronomers. But in December 1973 mankind had its first close encounter with Jupiter. We chart the story of our discovery of these massive planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
Now that we’re done with the planets, asteroid belt, and comets, we’re heading to the outskirts of the solar system. Out past Neptune are vast reservoirs of icy bodies that can become comets if they get poked into the inner solar system. The Kuiper Belt is a donut shape aligned with the plane of the solar system; the scattered disk is more eccentric and is the source of short period comets; and the Oort Cloud which surrounds the solar system out to great distances is the source of long-period comets. These bodies all probably formed closer into the Sun, and got flung out to the solar system’s suburbs by gravitational interactions with the outer planets.