Well Appointed Planets with Vacant Possession – Infographic
Once man and woman, had finally made it off the planet and the space race was well and truly under way, the key priority for both the US and Russian space programmes became checking out the neighborhood. For centuries the other planets in the solar system had fascinated scientists and artists alike. Once humanity had discovered that our home planet was not actually the center of the universe, nor was it entirely flat, the concept that other planets in the sun’s orbit may be inhabited soon spread. Mars was considered a likely contender and the possibility that the neighbors were ‘little green men’ (and presumably little green women) from Mars was considered almost certain. Naturally curious about, but also easily terrified, at the prospect of these extra-terrestrial beings, our priority since the 1960s has been focused on exploring our surrounding planets; however, to date, neither little green (nor any other unlikely colored) men or women have been found.
The moon was the first of our neighbors to be subject to our attentions. Rumors about cheese were soon dispelled and our satellite was the first to be orbited, flown past and landed upon. It is also the only extraterrestrial body to have been visited by man to date. The USSR were the first to photograph the dark side of the moon in 1959 and this was the first time that humans had ever seen this part of our natural satellite. The Americans followed with Ranger 4 in 1962, the Soviets following with a number of moon lander in the 1960s and finally the Americans managed to take that famous giant leap, placing Aldrin and Armstrong where no man, woman or little green alien (probably) had been before.
Earth’s (Evil) Twin
Venus is considered Earth’s twin; roughly the same size and a delightful blue colour, however, if it’s our twin it’s an evil one. Temperatures soar to unbearable heights and sulphur in the atmosphere creates a hot, steamy suffocating and deadly environment. The Soviet Union has largely led the game in terms of missions to Venus, and the planet has been the subject of more landings than any other body in the solar system. The first landing was in 1970, when the Venera 7 explorer made it safely to the planet. Eight further missions followed each sending back valuable data that confirmed the planet was inhospitable, uninhabitable and that as a holiday destination two weeks in Siberian gulag is probably preferable.
The Accursed Red Planet
In reality, Mars is a better candidate for at least having been home to life in the past. Unfortunately it’s not terribly easy to get to and the astoundingly high failure rate for attempting to get probes to the planet has led to the nickname ‘the Mars Curse’ in the space industry. Almost two thirds of the probes and landers blasted off in the direction of the Red Planet have either failed to reach their destination or reached it a lot faster (and destructively) than was planned. Many dozens of spacecraft have been launched, and both the US and Russia have successfully launched missions to Mars. The US managed to successfully fly past Mars with its Mariner Programmes in the 1960s and later landed the first two probes (the Viking programme) on the planet. These produced the first full colour pictures taken from the surface of planet other than earth and raised the bar in terms of space exploration.
Deep Space Missions
The outer planets have also been subject to numerous missions, though no landings as yet. Given the distance involved, and the fact that many of the outer planets are gas giants, it’s unlikely that landings will take place any time soon. However, frequent missions to orbit (and occasionally crash into) the planets in the outer regions of our immediate neighbourhood have continued to throw light on the nature of not only the solar system but the nature of life itself.
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