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The History of the Pioneers: Objects, Vehicles in Outer Space Part 1


In the twentieth century, mankind has made the impossible; artificial structures left the Earth and flew away towards the stars. It is because of the relatively young history of space technology that humanity has immediately reached a series of goals. In our series of posts, we present the famous “first ones” with some unknown facts.

Luna 1: the first spacecraft to defeat Earth's gravity

Country: Soviet Union
Year: 1959

The space technology chapter of the Cold War abounds in the competition between the two superpowers. The Soviet government, for example, envisaged the discovery of the Moon as early as 1958. The engineers designed four different probes, one to study the impact, one to take picture of the other side of the Moon, a version with an even more advanced imaging system for the same purpose, and one to study the effects of a nuclear blast. Eventually, the glory came with a machine, later called Luna 1, a spherical structure with a weight of 360 kgs, which defeated the Earth’s gravity. Unfortunately, the spacecraft originally intended to study, among other things, the Moon's magnetic field and cosmic radiation with the T+93 system, however, it disintegrated within seconds. Even so, it carried new information about the solar wind, the Earth’s magnetosphere, and earned the title of the first artificial moon.

Interesting fact: the unofficial name for Luna 1 was Mechta, meaning “Dream” in Russian.

Mariner 2: the first successful interplanetary mission (Venus)

Country: USA
Year: 1962

After the failure of Mariner 1, Mariner No. 2 set out for Venus with the same equipment and desired outcome, but correcting the flaws of its predecessor, and in December 1962 approached the planet as close as 34.000 kilometres. It studied the atmosphere of Venus for 42 seconds and for the first time in human history, brought invaluable data back about another planet.

Luna 9: the first spacecraft to successfully land on another celestial body (Moon)

Country: Soviet Union
Year: 1966.

Most people know that Neil Armstrong was the first astronaut to step on the surface of the moon. However, the first landing on the surface was achieved by the Soviets. Today, it is not even possible to understand why the scientists of the world considered it a huge achievement that Luna 9 had successfully landed. This was the 12th attempt by Soviet experts, and this time everything fit together. Four minutes and 10 seconds after landing and launching a special device of about 100 kilograms to the Moon, Luna 9 began to send back the nine panoramic images from the surface of our celestial companion. Perhaps the most important finding of the mission was that landing objects would not sink into the sand, so heavier units can be sent to the Moon too.

Venus 4: the first spacecraft to enter the atmosphere of another planet (Venus)

Country: Soviet Union
Year: 1967

Venyera 4 or Venus 4 claims another title: it is not enough to fly into the atmosphere of Venus, which turned out to be unfriendly, deadly to man, but it also sent data home. The capsule, which descended into the atmosphere of Venus, was designed to withstand extreme circumstances. The probe sent data back from the incredibly hot atmosphere of 262 degrees during its 93 minutes long mission. At an altitude of 28 kilometres, the pressure was already so high that signal transmission malfunctioned. Based on the data, the spacecraft had to withstand 500 degrees on the surface.

Surveyor VI: the first spacecraft to successfully take off from another celestial body (Moon)

Country: USA
Year: 1967

By 1967, the lunar landing was no longer a sensation (but, of course, it was the peak of human and engineering activity so far). Surveyor VI, on the other hand, gained prestige by being able to ascend three meters from the landing point and landed safely two and a half meters away. Nearly 30,000 images were taken by the NASA equipment, and with its small but important movement, it also collected important data about the location of its original landing spot- which later came in handy for human landings.