Is Saturn's moon Titan a conquered planet?

The history of manned space travel

The Russians take the first step

When the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite into space with an R-7 rocket in 1957, it came as a shock to the USA. It's about domination in space, about strategic planning in the Cold War, about prestige and power. The Americans react promptly.

In 1958 they founded the space agency "NASA" and started the "Mercury program". Both superpowers want to be the first to send a human into space and demonstrate their technological superiority.

Nobody knows what to expect in space. Rocket technology is also still in its infancy. The risk for space flights is enormous and so it is first of all the Russian bitch Laika who has to serve as a test object.

In 1957 it was the first living creature to orbit the earth, but unfortunately died due to a technical defect in Sputnik-2. The Americans followed suit, sending the rhesus monkey Sam into space for eleven minutes with a Redstone rocket in 1959. He's luckier and nearly dies on landing.

The first person in space

As a result, both nations develop space capsules, but it is again the Russians who set the first milestone in the history of manned space travel. On April 12, 1961, the army officer Yuri Gagarin took off with the Vostok 1 and created a sensation.

His chances of survival are only estimated at 50:50, but he makes it. The test pilot orbits the earth once in 106 minutes and then returns safely to earth. Another shock for the US. Again the Russians were more than a nose ahead of them.

The Americans are following suit

Military test pilot Alan Shepard takes off just three weeks after Gagarin with a Mercury Redstone rocket. However, it does not orbit the earth, but "only" flies a ballistic trajectory in its space capsule "Freedom" and reaches an altitude of 187 kilometers. The sting is deep.

Just a week later, John F. Kennedy appeared before the US Congress and announced that the US would land on the moon by the end of the decade.

From then on, things go fast. Until 1965, the Americans were testing, as part of the "Mercury Program", how to get people safely into space and how to control rockets. At the same time, the Soviet Union was running the Vostok program with similar goals and was starting the "Vozhod program" in 1964.

The race intensifies

With a further developed Vozhod space capsule, the Soviet Union brought three cosmonauts into space simultaneously for the first time in October 1964. And on the Vozhod-2 mission, the Russian Alexej Leonow even managed the first space walk.

He only just escapes death because his spacesuit puffs up and he finds his way back into the space capsule only with great difficulty. But the Americans have to watch the USSR write space history.

The Americans then started the "Gemini Program" in 1965. It is also used to prepare for a moon landing. A titanium rocket is now bringing the new Gemini space capsules, each with two astronauts, into space. As part of the program, the techniques required for the moon landing are being developed and tested.

The American Ed White also succeeds in a space walk. The crews gain experience in handling computer control and the first launch and coupling maneuvers take place in space.

When the rocket designer Sergei Korolev dies in 1966, the Russian space program suffers a decisive setback. The head and handlebars are missing and the Russians are losing more and more ground in the race to the moon.

On the way to the moon - the Apollo program

In 1966 NASA started the "Apollo Program", the last phase on the way to the moon. It is developing the huge Saturn V launch vehicle, which has enough thrust to propel the three-man space capsule "Apollo" and a lander in the direction of the moon.

The pace of the program is extremely fast. Under no circumstances do the Americans want to let the Russians hit them in the race to the moon. Even after three astronauts burned in the command capsule during tests in preparation for the Apollo 1 mission, NASA is still ready to take the greatest risks in order to meet Kennedy's tight schedule.

The moon landing

The tragic accident was followed by nine Apollo missions of a preparatory nature. First of all, the Saturn V, the Apollo command module and the lunar module will be tested.

With Apollo 8, the astronauts Bormann, Lovell and Anders will fly to the moon for the first time, circle it ten times and return safely to earth. The Russians manage little on the way to the moon.

At this point you have already lost the race. After Apollo 8, tests and coupling maneuvers with the lunar module as well as a simulated landing approach in lunar orbit will follow.

And then the time has come: on July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin Aldrin landed the first moon with the Apollo 11 mission.

600 million people on earth watch as the two astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin spend two and a half hours on the lunar surface collecting 21 kilograms of lunar rock. After their return to Earth, the heroes have to be quarantined for another 17 days. NASA is afraid of unknown space organisms.

But after that there is a big parade in New York, the heroes of the nation are duly celebrated. The American lunar program ends with Apollo 17. The Soviet Union does not manage to bring people to the moon, but at least they manage to land the first remote-controlled rover on a strange celestial body in 1971 with Lunochod 1.

A new era is dawning - living and researching in space

The USSR started a new program as early as the late 1960s. The new vision is: living and researching in space. This should be possible in earth orbit on a space station.

In 1971 Soyuz-10 launched the Salyut 1 space station. By 1986 the Russians gained experience with Salyut space stations, the lifespan of which is limited in time. Then the era of the "MIR" space station begins, the first space station in space that is permanently geared towards scientific operations.

The Americans also want to do research in space. They are developing the space shuttles for this. Inexpensive, reusable space shuttles that take the "Spacelab" research laboratory into space for a few days. The Europeans are also taking part in this program for the first time.

After the political change in the east, ESA also participates in the Russian space program. In 1995 the German astronaut Thomas Reiter visited MIR for six months. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, new possibilities opened up for manned space travel - for the first time nothing stands in the way of international cooperation between space travel nations.

The international space station "ISS"

Two years before Reiters stay, the first plans for a joint space station were forged between the Americans and the Russians. By 1998, 13 other countries have joined the project: In November 1998 the first component of the ISS will be brought into space, and the station has been expanded over the years.

Thomas Reiter spent another six months there in space in 2006 - no other European apart from the Russians has been in space for that long - a record! A final end to the ISS is not yet in sight. The previous contracts run until 2024, technically operation until 2028 would be conceivable.

New targets in sight - the moon and Mars

The US has once again set its sights on the moon as a worthwhile destination. In the future, two missions to the moon will start every year with the new "Orion" spaceship. A total of four astronauts will then research on Earth's satellite for up to a week.

"Orion" has already successfully passed its first test flights. What is missing so far is a launcher that is powerful enough to shoot the "Orion" to the moon. The new "Space Launch System" carrier system is already under development and should make its maiden flight in 2022 at the earliest. In the distant future, the moon could also serve as a base station for manned Mars flights.

For a manned flight to Mars, however, many questions and problems still need to be clarified. For example, how to deal with the high levels of radiation exposure during the flight and how the care of the astronauts on Mars can be designed.