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Top five 'firsts' in human space exploration

AS much as human exploration of space is said to bring us together as a species, our competitive spirit has driven our best efforts.

So who, or what, got there first?

1. The first human-made object in space

While the Paris Gun and unfortunate sewer covers caught in A-bomb testing were sent pretty high, a V2 rocket was the first to make it all the way.

US scientists testing V2 rockets after the second world war managed to reach an altitude of 174.6km, our first time into space itself - past the 100km Karman Line.

Russia put the first human-made object into orbit in 1957 with Sputnik.

A model of the capsule piloted by Laika the dog.
A model of the capsule piloted by Laika the dog. Public Domain

2. The first animal in space

Apart from US rocket scientists at White Sands firing flies into space to see if the radiation would nuke them, Laika the Russian dog in Sputnik 2 (aka Muttnik) was the first animal in orbit.

Despite reaching 250km, Laika died during the flight because nobody had yet bothered to invent a way of re-entering the atmosphere.

A long line of animals have explored both the stars and engineers' varying capacity to build functioning spaceships. 

3. The first humans in space

The first human in space was 27-year-old Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin in 1961 aboard the Vostok 1.

This, combined with being beaten into space by Sputnik, was considered a very unfortunate result for the United States, though they did manage to launch John Glenn into orbit in 1962.

The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova in 1963 on the Vostok 6.

Conspiracy theorists maintain that none of this is true and Russia simply fired humans into space until someone survived but suppressed the information because of the Cold War.

4. First Australian in space

Civilian oceanographer Paul Desmond Scully-Power AM became the first Aussie in space when he flew as a payload specialist on the Challenger Shuttle's STS-41-G mission in 1984.

Bonus trivia: Mr Scully-Power's was the first human beard in space.

South Australian Andy Thomas AO was the first Australian Professional Astronaut to go boldly.

5. First music video in space

Canadian Astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield spent some of his free time while aboard the International Space Station recording a music video for his cover of David Bowie's Space Oddity. is not only the first music video shot in space, it could also considered the most expensive by virtue of its location requiring the most expensive vehicle ever constructed, the $150 billion ISS.

Other notable firsts

  • Neil Armstrong - first human on the moon
  • Aleksei Leonov - first spacewalk
  • Venera 3 - first human-made object on another planet (Venus)
  • Salyut 1 - first space station
  • Mars 2 lander - first human-made object on Mars
  • Mars 3 lander - first human-made object on Mars to not crash horribly
  • Voyager 1 - first human-made object to leave the solar system

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