Few things excite the human imagination like space travel. Missions to walk on the moon, land probes on speeding comets, or drive robots across Mars are undeniably thrilling, and remind us of just how far we’ve come from our humble primate roots. While the most electrifying missions are splashed across the headlines every few years, it’s easy to forget that space agencies around the world are constantly working on important, if less camera-ready, missions. Let’s count down 10 amazing space missions you’ve probably never heard of.
Skylab Space Station
Long before there was the International Space Station, there was Skylab. This early space station was produced and operated by NASA, and orbited Earth from 1973 to 1979. Skylab served as a base of operations for three manned missions, which produced several important scientific discoveries and set a new record for the longest continuous time a human had spent in space—at more than 84 days. science space earth space science universe
While Mars is mankind’s current planetary fixation, Venus was an equally strong draw for scientists throughout much of the 20th century. Venera 9 and Venera 10 were twin unmanned Soviet missions to the yellow planet, launched days apart in 1975. The numerous measurements made by the Venera programme revealed the truly hellish conditions on Venus, and produced the first ever landscape photographs of another planet’s surface. science space earth space science universe