I have previously covered the inception of the space program through the 1990s and this article will take it from there forward covering 2000 thru 2022. Read, learn, and enjoy!

In February of 2000, the USA and the European Space Agency orbited and landed on asteroid 433 Eros. Eros, previously named Rendezvous, is in the Amor group and was the first asteroid discovered and the second-largest near Earth. That mission was called NEAR Shoemaker after the planetary scientist Eugene Shoemaker. Shoemaker is from John-Hopkins University – College of Applied Physics Laboratory. He designed a robotic arm to study near-earth asteroids. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

Eros 433 Asteroid

February of 2004 was a first for private enterprise. The first private astronaut was sent into space by Suborbital from Mojave Aerospace Ventures on the SpaceShipOne Flight 15P. The astronaut’s name was Mike Melvill.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

SpaceShipOne 15P

The USA, European Space Agency, and Italy teamed up for a mission that orbited Saturn in July of 2004. They also deployed the Cassini-Huygens space probe to study Saturn. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

Nasa sent up the Genesis in September 2004. Genesis was a sample probe that was supposed to collect samples of solar wind particles and bring them back to earth for analysis. This was the first launch and return for NASA since the Apollo program ended. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

Genesis sample space probe

The first soft landing on another solar system (Titan) was in January of 2005. This was another joint venture between the USA, European Space Agency, and Italy using the Cassini-Huygens space probe. Titan has shown us that they host a dense atmosphere that can support liquid surfaces and perhaps more. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

Picture of Titan. The largest moon to orbit Saturn.

The first time we (the USA) ever impacted a comet with a spacecraft was Tempel 1 in July of 2005. Tempel 1 was discovered in 1867 by Wilhelm Tempel. It completes an orbit of the sun every five and a half years and was the comet featured in the movie Deep Impact. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

Stardust is a robotic probe that was launched in 1999 and its mission was to collect samples from comet Wild 2 and bring them back to earth for analysis. The first sample came back to earth in January 2006. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

The Stardust robotic probe.

The Kepler Telescope was launched in March 2009. Its job is to look for earth-sized planets that orbit stars. These planets are sometimes called exoplanets. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

The Kepler Telescope.

In 2011 Messenger, a robotic probe was launched by the US to study Mercury. Specifically, we hoped to learn more about her chemical composition, geology, and magnetic field. Mercury is the closest planet to the sun and the smallest planet in the solar system. Mercury takes nearly eighty-eight days to orbit the sun and was named after the Roman god of commerce, Mercurius. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

The Messenger robotic probe.

Lettuce was the first food grown aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Japan and the USA were the first to eat that lettuce in August of 2015. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

New Shepard 2 was developed by Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos is the owner of Blue Origin. This was the first reusable suborbital vehicle and was named after astronaut Alan Shepard. New Shepard 2 can take off and land vertically and also carry a crew. It was launched in November 2015. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

New Shepard 2.

Space X Demo-2 was launched in May 2020. Space X was founded by Elon Musk. This launch was the first manned mission funded by a private entity. Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken went to the ISS. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_space_exploration)

Space-X Demo 2 rocket

I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.


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