IN 1957, THE SOVIET Union launched Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite, into space. Their success prompted the United States to establish the National Aeronautics and Space Administration a year later and, soon after, Apollo 11 landed on the moon and U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the surface.
Sixty years after NASA was formed, countries around the world have joined the space race, with an eye to putting a person on Mars. But experts say the future of space activity may rest with private corporations that are building their own products, launching commercial satellites and even exploring small missions.
In spite of interplanetary probes like New Horizons, which have reached past Pluto, and successful robotic explorations of Mars, some scientists say progress isn’t coming quickly enough.
“All the Mars missions that are currently going on, the landers and the satellites, have been spectacularly successful, but they are with robotic missions without human involvement,” says Michael Mendillo, professor of astronomy at the Boston University Center for Space Physics. “(And that’s) a loss to humanity so far. We should have landed on Mars by now, with humans,”