A partial timeline of humans in space


Part 1: The Cold War and the race for space. (to come Part 2: Cyberspace)

Artificial objects in outer-space, and the quest to capture the image of the Earth from space.

20 June 1944

The first artificial object in space was a Nazi V-2 long-range guided ballistic missile. The vertical launch of the missile, codenamed MW 18014, crossed the Kármán line (100km above sea level) and ultimately reached a height of approx 175km. After the war the US and USSR claimed the V-2 and its scientists.

A V-2 launch

24 October 1946

The U.S. launch a V-2 rocket (into sub-orbital flight) and transmit the first images from space.

The first image of Earth from space (aboard the V-2).

The 1950s

29 July 1955 

The U.S. announced its intention to launch an artificial satellite.


8 August 1955 

The U.S.S.R. approve a proposal to create an artificial satellite.


4 October 1957

The U.S.S.R. launch the first artificial Earth satellite, Sputnik 1.

The launch of Sputnik 1 triggers the ‘Space Race’ between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

A model of Sputnik 1


7 August 1959

The U.S. launches the Explorer 6 satellite and transmits the first images of Earth from orbit. 

The 1960s

12 April 1961

The U.S.S.R. launch Vostok 1. It is the first manned spacecraft. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first Human in outer-space. Vostok 1 completed a single orbit of Earth in 1 hour and 48 minutes (108 minutes).


10 August 1966

The U.S. launched Lunar Orbiter 1, an unmanned robotic spacecraft, as part of the Lunar Orbiter Program. It was the first American spacecraft to orbit the Moon“. — Wikipedia

The Lunar Orbiter was sent to orbit the moon to collect data (in the form images) of possible landing sites for the upcoming manned Apollo mission.

The lunar orbiter produced the first image of the Earth from (the distance of) the moon.


The first Lunar Orbiter image of the Earth from the distance of the moon.

During 1966 the artist, writer, member of the “Merry Pranksters”, and member of the Avant Garde media art collective USCO, Stewart Brand, campaigned for the release of a rumoured NASA satellite image of the whole Earth as seen from space, imaging it would act as a powerful symbol for a shared human destiny. As part of the campaign Brand sold badges with the words “Why haven’t we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?”

Brand “distributed the button widely as part of a campaign for public access to images taken during United States space missions. He believed that a picture of the entire planet would be a unifying force in the management of global ecological challenges.” — MoMA

Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth badge campaign.

10 November 1967

The U.S. ATS-3 (Applications Technology Satellite 3) weather and communications satellite took the first colour photo of the Earth, which was subsequently used on the cover of the first issue Stewart Brand’s  Whole Earth Catalog.


The first color image of Earth, a composite of images taken in 1967 by the ATS-3 satellite, was used as the cover image of Whole Earth Catalog’s first edition — Wikipedia

Fall 1968

Stewart Brand and The Whole Earth Catalog, 1968

Whole Earth catalog, issue 1, Fall 1968 featuring the 1976 ATS-3 satellite image.

9 December 1977

The Mother of All Demos


24 December 1968

Earthrise — Photographed by astronaut William Anders (Apollo 8)

This is the second (published) image of the Earth from the Moon.

Earthrise, William Anders, 1968, Original orientation (as viewed by the Apollo 8 crew)

20 July 1969

The Eagle has landed

Apollo 11 patch

The U.S. Apollo 11 mission lands the first humans on the Moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Apollo 11 crew, 1969. Left to right: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin.

The Apollo 11 plaque

Apollo missions 11 to 17 all left small plaques attached to the Lunar modules left behind on the lunar surface.

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

The Apollo 11 plaque

Apollo 11 good will messages

“A small disc carrying statements by Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy,.Johnson and Nixon and messages of goodwill from leaders of 73 countries around the world will be left on the Moon by the Apollo 11 astronauts.” — NASA

Apollo 11 Good will greetings disc

The 1970s

2 March 1972

The U.S launches Pioneer 10

Pioneer 10 and 11 both carry a gold-anodized aluminum plaque in the event that either spacecraft is ever found by intelligent lifeforms from other planetary systems. The plaques feature the nude figures of a human male and female along with several symbols that are designed to provide information about the origin of the spacecraft. — Wikipedia

Pioneer 10 plaque


Craig Owens https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_plaque#Criticism

Craig Owen’s The Allegorical Impulse: Toward a Theory of Postmodernism

The Allegorical Impulse_Toward a Theory of Postmodernism—Craig Owens-1980

The Allegorical Impulse_Toward a Theory of Postmodernism Part 2—Craig Owens-1980


7 December 1972

The Blue Marble — Apollo 17. One of the most reproduced images in human history.

“The Blue Marble is an image of planet Earth made on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft at a distance of about 29,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) from the surface.” — Wikipedia

The Blue Marble in its original orientation, Apollo 17. 7 December 1972.

1974 Areceibo Message…binary code

The Arecibo message is a 1974 interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth sent to globular star cluster M13 in the hope that extraterrestrial intelligence might receive and decipher it.



6 April 1977

The U.S launches Pioneer 11


15 August 1977

The Big Ear and the search for extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)…

The U.S. Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope ‘received’ a very strong narrowband radio signal from outer-space! It was represented as “6EQUJ5”  on the dot-matrix printout.

The Wow! Signal, as it became known, is named for the exclamation Wow!  written (in red biro) on the printout by the volunteer  observer, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman.


OSU radio Telescope printout- Macro,picture from 1977 at Dreese Lad OSU for Dave Lore story to run 11/26/95. The signal was noted on a computer printout, with the word “Wow,” written by Jerry Ehman, who found the signal’s “tracks” on the printout. (note this caption was not written by me, it appears to be embedded in the metadata—I like it, iI will keep it, Thanks.)

The two regions of space in the constellation Sagittarius from where the Wow! signal may have originated. The ambiguity is due to how the experiment was designed. For clarity, the widths (right ascension) of the red bands have been exaggerated. —Wikipedia

A common misconception is that the Wow! signal constitutes some sort of message. In fact, what was received appears to be an unmodulated, continuous wave signal with no encoded information; essentially a flash of radio energy. The string “6EQUJ5” is merely the representation of the expected variation of signal intensity over time, expressed in the particular measuring system adopted for the experiment. —Wikipedia

20 August  1977

The U.S. launches Voyager 2 space probe


5 September 1977

The U.S. launches Voyager 1 space probe

Voyager Golden records

Voyager probe (The Golden record can be seen near the centre of the image)

Gold plating the voyager copper discs.

{Enter description of Voyager Golden records here}

The Voyager 1 probe is currently the farthest human-made object from Earth.




Steve Mcqueen Once Upon a Time, 2002

Trevor Paglen: The Last Pictures, 2012

The Guardian: Alison Flood, 7 Aug 2012: The Last Pictures by Trevor Paglen: in space and in a bookshop near you

e-flux: Nato Thompson, Journal #37 – September 2012: The Last Pictures: Interview with Trevor Paglen


14 October 1977

David Bowie releases his 12th studio album, Heroes. Featuring the experimental and largely instrumental track V-2 Schneider named after the V-2 missile and Florian Schneider from Kraftwerk. Created in collaboration with Brian Eno, it was produced by Tony Visconti.

The 1980s

Leo Melamed — The Tenth Planet

Screenshot of Leo Melamed’s website

“When an advanced alien civilization encounters an Earth space probe, they organize a mission to find its planet of origin.”

The 1990s

14 February 1990

From the spectacular vantage point of approximately 6 billion kilometers, Voyager 1 captures a barely perceptible image of the Earth that becomes known as the ‘Pale Blue Dot’.  The image was requested by Carl Sagan who later said of the blue dot:

“That’s us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.”

Pale Blue Dot, Voyager 1, 1990

Thomas Pynchon — Gravity’s Rainbow

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