Encyclopedia of Bioastronautics

Living Edition
| Editors: Laurence R. Young, Jeffrey P. Sutton

Highlights of Human Spaceflight: The United States

  • Roger LauniusEmail author
Living reference work entry

Latest version View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-10152-1_67-2


Essay focuses on the history of US space exploration from the 1950s into the twenty-first century, highlighting the four major flight programs – Mercury (1961–1963), Gemini (1965–1966), Apollo (1967–1972), Space Shuttle (1981–2011) – and the two extended orbital workshops, Skylab (1973–1974) and the International Space Station (2000–present). In addition, recent developments in space tourism and other commercial space activities are profiled.

Sputnik as a Cold War Crisis

Human space exploration emerged as a Cold War initiative of both the Soviet Union and the United States during the technological demonstrations of virtuosity in the early 1960s. After an arms race with nuclear components and a series of hot and cold crises in the Eisenhower era, coupled with the launching of Sputniks I and II in 1957, the United States pursued human spaceflight as a means of demonstrating American technological prowess before the world’s nonaligned nations.

This avenue of competition emerged...


Human Space Exploration Sputnik National Aeronautics and Space Administration Project Mercury NASA Project Gemini Apollo 11 International Space Station Skylab Colonization Moon Project Apollo Space Shuttle Columbia Challenger Vision for Space Exploration Space Station Freedom Commercial space Space tourism SpaceX Orbital Sciences Humans versus robots in space 
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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Launius Historical ServicesAuburnUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Rupert Gerzer
    • 1
  1. 1.Space CenterSkoltech UniversityMoscowRussia