On August 27, 1962 NASA launched the world’s first successful planetary mission, Mariner 2. On its journey to Venus, Mariner collected data that, for the first time, confirmed the existence of solar winds. On December 14, 1962—nearly one hundred and nine days after launch—Mariner 2 reached Venus and became the first spacecraft to successfully encounter another planet, passing some 21,600 miles (34,773km) from the Venetian surface. The scans taken during this flyby provided the first evidence that Venus is the victim of a runaway “greenhouse effect.” Subsequently, this mission helped scientists better understand the influence that carbon dioxide has on planetary temperatures.
A number of governments are no longer investing in space exploration as they did in decades past, but this does not mean that the era of exploration is coming to an end. Rather, the decline in national investment has been met with a corresponding rise in commercial interest. In October of 2012, SpaceX delivered the first corporate-transported cargo to the International Space Station.
This switch from federal to commercially funded programs signals the dawn of a new era of discovery. As such, it seems only fitting that we take a moment to look back at what we have achieved over the course of the previous era.
In 2012, NASA created an interactive database that allows users to do just that.
Starting with Mariner 2, this database chronicles the history of space exploration. The site has information on more than 20 missions. Clicking on the spacecrafts reveals in depth information on specific operations and mission goals, and a number of links are provided that will take you to NASA sites that offer even more details about the history of space exploration.
So take a moment of your time to consider the achievements of those who came before, and to remember what we can achieve when we work together. It’s a little pick-me-up that I think we could all use.
You can find the “Dare Mighty Things: Interactive Database” right here.