Blast Off!

The Earth. Our Sun. The Milky Way. The Universe. These are all fascinating things, and we only know a tiny fraction of what there is to know. This page helps gather some of that information together in one place.

Space Explorers

People* who made it to outer space.*Not all astronauts were people.

I still say, 'Shoot for the moon; you might get there.'

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin was one of the first people to walk on the moon. He and flight commander Neil Armstrong made the Apollo 11 moonwalk in 1969.

Buzz Aldrin was born on January 20, 1930, in Montclair, New Jersey. His father, a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, encouraged his interest in flight. Aldrin became a fighter pilot and flew in the Korean War. In 1963, he was selected by NASA. In 1969, along with Neil Armstrong, they made history with the Apollo 11 mission when they walked on the moon. Aldrin later worked in shaping space-faring technology and working as an author, penning titles like his memoir Return to Earth.

After Gemini 12, Aldrin was assigned to the back-up crew of Apollo 8 along with Neil Armstrong and Harrison "Jack" Schmitt. For the historic Apollo 11 lunar landing mission, Aldrin served as the lunar module pilot. On July 20, 1969, he made history as the second man to walk on the moon, following mission commander Armstrong, who took the first step on the lunar surface. They spent a total of 21 hours during the moonwalk, and returned with 46 pounds of moon rocks. The walk, which was televised, drew an estimated 600 million people to watch, becoming the world's largest television audience in history.

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A dream would have to be a lunar exploration mission.

Tim Peake was the first British ESA astronaut to visit the Space Station.

He started his journey to the International Space Station in December 2015. During his six month space exploration he carried out experiments, conducted repairs to the ISS, ate bacon sandwiches prepared by Heston Blumenthal and watched the Six Nations tournament.

Timothy graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1992 as an officer in the Army Air Corps. He became a helicopter flying instructor in 1998 before being selected for a post with the US Army, flying Apache helicopters.

In 2005 he graduated from the Empire Test Pilots School (ETPS) in the UK. He received a degree in flight dynamics and evaluation in 2006. Timothy was the senior Apache test pilot and was also the Squadron Training Officer. He has logged over 3000 hours flying time on more than 30 types of helicopter and fixed wing aircraft.

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I could have gone on flying through space forever.

On 12 April 1961, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel into space when he launched into orbit on the Vostok 3KA-3 spacecraft (Vostok 1).

The United States and the Soviet Union vigorously competed to push the boundaries of mankind's exploration of space. The Russians scored a victory when they launched a small craft carrying cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to new heights. His 108-minute flight gave him a permanent place in the history books as the first man in space.

The third of four children, Gagarin was born on March 9, 1934, in a small village a hundred miles from Moscow. As a teenager, Gagarin witnessed a Russian Yak fighter plane make an emergency landing near his home. When offered a chance years later to join a flying club, he eagerly accepted, making his first solo flight in 1955. Only a few years later, he submitted his request to be considered as a cosmonaut.

Over the course of 108 minutes, Vostok 1 traveled around the Earth once, reaching a maximum height of 203 miles (327 kilometers). Over Africa, the engines fired to bring Gagarin back to Earth. The craft carried ten days worth of provisions in case the engines failed and Gagarin was required to wait for the orbit to naturally decay, but they were unnecessary. Gagarin re-entered Earth's atmosphere, experiencing forces up to eight times the pull of gravity, but remained consciousness.

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Woof. Woof. Woof.

The Soviet Union stunned the world on Nov. 3, 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 2. On board the small satellite was a little dog, Laika, the first animal to orbit Earth.

Laika was a young, mostly-Siberian husky. She was rescued from the streets of Moscow. Soviet scientists assumed that a stray dog would have already learned to endure harsh conditions of hunger and cold temperatures. Laika and two other dogs were trained for space travel by being kept in small cages and learning to eat a nutritious gel that would be their food in space.

Unfortunately, Laika's trip into space was one-way only. A re-entry strategy could not be worked out in time for the launch. It is unknown exactly how long Laika lived in orbit — perhaps a few hours or a few days — until the power to her life-support system gave out. Sputnik 2 burned up in the upper atmosphere in April 1958.

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That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon.

Neil A. Armstrong, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio, on August 5, 1930. He began his NASA career in Ohio.

After serving as a naval aviator from 1949 to 1952, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in 1955. His first assignment was with the NACA Lewis Research Center (now NASA Glenn) in Cleveland. Over the next 17 years, he was an engineer, test pilot, astronaut and administrator for NACA and its successor agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

As spacecraft commander for Apollo 11, the first manned lunar landing mission, Armstrong gained the distinction of being the first man to land a craft on the moon and first to step on its surface.

Armstrong passed away on Aug. 25, 2012 following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures. He was 82.

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Our Planets

Our solar system and the bits of rock we call planets.

Our solar system is made up of 8* planets orbitting a sun. It's quite spectacular to think of the differences in planets, and to think about how each planet is different. But they are. Very different indeed.

* There are now 8 planets as Pluto has been named as a Dwarf planet of our solar system, along with Eris, Haumea, Makemake, Ceres.

Click or press a planet below to find out more information about it.

My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming

Naming planets doesn't have to be difficult. Just remember the little saying and use the first letter of each word to help you remember the order of the planets.


Moving around things.

Orbit is just a fancy word for when something moves around something else. Planets orbit the Sun, the International Space Station orbits the Earth, the Moon also orbits the Earth, and many other things orbit all sorts of stuff in space. But that just means they move around one another.

Just like that. The Moon rotates around the Earth. And so other planets rotate around the Sun, and the moons rotate around planets.

Orbits of planets are caused by the force of the Sun's gravity, pulling the planets towards it. They don't crash into the Sun though because planets are also moving away from the Sun. A planet's spinning motion means that there's some force of movement away from the Sun. When the balance of the Sun's gravitational pull is the same as the planet's motion away from the Sun there is a balance in the forces. This means that an orbit can happen.

And planets aren't the only things that can fall into orbits. Moons, spacecraft, man-made satellites and large bits of space-rock can all fall into orbits around things with gravitational pull.