It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a half-century since humans began exploring space in earnest, a half-century represented on this map created by National Geographic.
In case the ridiculously-rapid pace of technological development in the second half of the 20th century doesn’t astound you already, consider this: Just 50 years ago, NASA was barely a year old, and humanity was just trying to figure out how to leave the cradle of Earth with the Mercury rocket program. The first man-made satellite had been put into orbit scant years before with the launch of Sputnik in 1957 – and little over a decade later, there was a man standing on the surface of the Moon.
Now, people live in space for months at a time. Our space tools make the vehicles used in the Mercury and Gemini – and even Apollo – programs look positively ancient. If that doesn’t boggle your mind, then it should.
National Geographic has put together a map chronicling the past fifty years of human space exploration, and the missions that we’ve sent to the Moon, Mars, and Venus as well as out into the cold depths of space to investigate Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond.
It’s kind of a sobering look, because as much as we’ve learned, there’s still so much we don’t know. But that doesn’t make it any less fascinating – just look at the photo taken of the center of the Milky Way Galaxy last month to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s invention of the telescope. You may be able to make out the supermassive black hole in the center of the Galaxy, because it is four million times the size of our own Sun. Holy crap.
If anyone makes a joke about “50 Years, 1 Map” I’m going to ban them.