Firsts in Space – Quiz
We take these things for granted now, but there had to be a first time for everything. Ready to test your knowledge about space firsts? Match each description with one of the three choices given. You can then check your answers, and also find out a bit more.
Quiz: Firsts in Space
- First artificial satellite in orbit: (A) Explorer; (B) Vanguard; (C) Sputnik
- First person to orbit the Earth: (A) John Glenn; (B) Gherman Titov; (C) Yuri Gagarin
- First spacewalker: (A) Ed White; (B) Alexei Leonov; (C) Michael Collins
- First active communications satellite: (A) Molniya; (B) Telstar; (C) Syncom
- First space station: (A) Salyut; (B) Skylab; (C) Mir
- It gave humanity its first view of the far side of the Moon: (A) Pioneer 4; (B) Luna 3; (C) Ranger 3
- The first soft landing on Mars was made by: (A) Mars 3; (B) Mariner 4; (C) Viking 1
- First space tourist: (A) Dennis Tito; (B) Mark Shuttleworth; (C) Gregory Olsen
- First spacecraft to land on Venus: (A) Magellan; (B) Venera 7; (C) no spacecraft has survived the extreme heat and pressure on Venus
- First space probe to photograph the nucleus of a comet: (A) Rosetta; (B) Deep Impact; (C) Giotto
1. First artificial satellite in orbit: (C) Sputnik
The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 in October 1957, and awed the world. The shocked USA's reply to Sputnik was Explorer 1, successfully launched at the end of January 1958. Six weeks after that they launched Vanguard 1. Vanguard's mission ended in 1964, but it's the oldest satellite still orbiting the Earth.
2. First person to orbit the Earth: (C) Yuri Gagarin
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space. His space capsule Vostok 1 made one orbit on April 12, 1961. Since 1981, April 12 has been celebrated annually as Yuri's Night – also known as the World Space Party. In August 1961 cosmonaut Gherman Titov was the first person to complete an extended mission in space. In February 1962 John Glenn in Friendship 7 was the first American in orbit.
3. First spacewalker: (B) Alexei Leonov
Leaving a spacecraft while in space is an extravehicular activity (EVA), popularly known as a spacewalk. On March 18, 1965, cosmonaut Alexi Leonov left Voskhod 2 for a ten-minute spacewalk. He nearly didn't make it back inside when his pressurized spacesuit swelled up and wouldn't fit through the hatch. A few months later Ed White made the first American spacewalk. Tragically, in January 1967 White and his two crew mates died in a horrific fire on the launchpad in Cape Canaveral during an exercise. Michael Collins was the fourth person to do an EVA.
4. First active communications satellite: (B) Telstar
NASA launched Telstar 1 for communications giant AT&T in 1961. Syncom 2, the world's first geosynchronous satellite was launched in 1963. The first successful Molniya satellite wasn't launched until 1965 – they were designed for Soviet military communications.
5. First space station: (A) Salyut
The Soviet Union launched Salyut 1 in April 1971. Skylab was the USA's first space station, and it orbited Earth from 1973 to 1979. Mir, run by the Soviet Union and later by Russia, orbited from 1986 to 2001. It was the first modular space station and was assembled in orbit.
6. It gave humanity its first view of the far side of the Moon: (B) Luna 3
The same side of the Moon always faces us, but in October 1959 Soviet probe Luna 3 was the first to send back images of the unseen side. Surprisingly, the terrain was quite different to the near side. NASA's Ranger 7 successfully impacted the Moon in July 1964, and Surveyor 1 made the first American soft landing (controlled landing).
7. The first soft landing on Mars was made by: (A) Mars 3
The Soviet Union's Mars 3 made a soft landing on Mars in December 1971, but its mission ended abruptly after 14.5 seconds when all transmission stopped. NASA's Mariner 4 was the very first successful Mars mission – it made a flyby of the planet in 1965. Twelve years later Viking 1 became the first successful [US] lander. It returned data for 2307 days.
8. First space tourist: (A) Dennis Tito
Dennis Tito was an American businessman and the first of six space tourists. He was followed in 2002 by South African computer millionaire Mark Shuttleworth, and by Gregory Olsen in 2005.
9. First spacecraft to land on Venus: (B) Venera 7
It's true that conditions on Venus are hellish, but in December 1970 Venera 7 – the first spacecraft to land on another planet – survived for 50 minutes collecting data from the planet's surface. NASA sent Magellan to Venus in 1989 to map its surface from orbit. It used radar in order to penetrate Venus's thick clouds.
10. First space probe to photograph the nucleus of a comet: (C) Giotto
Giotto was the European probe that photographed Comet Halley in 1986. NASA's Deep Impact sent an impactor into the nucleus of comet Tempel 1 in order to learn about its composition. Rosetta went into orbit around comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko in August 2014 and studied it for over two years.
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