What are the greatest moments in space exploration? Take our great moments in space exploration quiz!


Man's quest to reach space was one of the most fascinating ventures of the 20th century, and the journey captivated our collective imaginations. Take a look at some of the great moments in space exploration as you put these puzzles together.

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Question 1 of 20

There's a whole lot of stuff up there in outer space, but only a small margin of it happens to be human technology. What was Earth's first artificial satellite?

Apollo 1
Sputnik 1
Explorer 1

... Shame on you if you went with Apollo 1 (more on that later). The Soviet Union's Sputnik 1 became the first artificial satellite on Oct. 4, 1957. The United States followed suit on Jan. 31, 1958, with Explorer 1.


Question 2 of 20

Sputnik 1 was quite a technological feat for the Soviets. In 1959, they followed it up by landing the first spacecraft on the moon. What was it called?

Luna 1
Luna 2
Luna 3

... The Soviets managed to blast Luna 1 to the moon's vicinity, but Luna 2 was the first to actually smack into the lunar surface. Luna 3 became the first spacecraft to return images of the far side of the moon.


Question 3 of 20

To heck with crude 1950s robots, what about the animals? Which of the following critters ascended into orbit first?

Laika the dog
Albert I, a rhesus monkey
a nameless mess of fruit flies

... Fruit flies made history in 1947, when the United States launched a few into space aboard a V-2 rocket to test high-altitude radiation. This, however, was a mere suborbital jaunt. Poor Albert I, a rhesus monkey, followed the flies in 1948, suffocating to death in the process. Laika the dog was the first animal actually to enter Earth's orbit, propelled aboard the Soviet Sputnik 2 spacecraft on Nov. 3, 1957.


Question 4 of 20

Man's best friend is one thing, but who was the first human to ride the rocket into the starry black yonder?

John Glenn
Alan Shepard
Yuri Gagarin

... The Soviets win again! Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being in space on April 12, 1961. Alan Shepard wouldn't make it up till May 5, 1961, but John Glenn took "first American in orbit" honors on Feb. 20, 1962.


Question 5 of 20

Early manned space travel was a bit of a stag party, but that doesn't mean females didn't make the trip as well. Who was the first female in space?

Valentina Tereshkova
Sally Ride
Svetlana Savitskaya

... Ever ahead of the curve in the early space race, the Soviet Union launched Valentina Tereshkova into orbit on June 16, 1963. Fellow cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya became the second woman in space in 1982. The following year, Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space.


Question 6 of 20

As the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union progressed, the two nations blasted even more unmanned spaceships to distant worlds. Can you guess which country landed the first spaceship on Venus?

the United States
the Soviet Union
Neither, it was a tie.

... The Soviet Venera 7 descended through the Venusian atmosphere on Dec. 15, 1970. It only managed to shoot a few quick photos and transmit them back to Earth before the planet's heat and pressure destroyed it. The Venera 3 did impact the planet but lost contact.


Question 7 of 20

But what about Mars? Who delivered the first artificial object to the Martian surface?

the United States
the Soviet Union
Neither, there is no such thing as Mars.

... The Soviet Union wins again. The probe Mars 2 reached the red planet on Nov. 27, 1971 (but it suffered a crash landing) The identical Mars 3 reached its destination on Dec. 2, 1971, and managed a softer landing and even a few minutes with working instruments. The American Viking 1 craft didn't reach Mars until July 20, 1976.


Question 8 of 20

The planet Mercury poses serious problems for human exploration. Surface conditions are extreme, and the planet's proximity to the sun makes it difficult to maintain orbit. Which mission was the first successful Mercury flyby?

Mariner 10

... NASA's Mariner 10 completed the first of three Mercury flybys in March 1974. NASA's MESSENGER conducted flybys in 2008 and 2009, leading up to orbital insertion on March 18, 2011. The Japanese and European space agencies jointly plan to launch BepiColombo in 2013.


Question 9 of 20

The gas giant Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. Needless to say, we wanted a closer look. Which was the first successful Jupiter flyby program?


... NASA's Pioneer 10 probe successfully flew by the planet Jupiter in December 1973, followed by Pioneer 11 a year later. Voyagers 1 and 2 passed by in March and July of 1979, respectively. The Ulysses spacecraft swung by in February 1992.


Question 10 of 20

When it comes to landmark exploration of the planet Saturn, the Cassini-Huygens probe takes the cake. Which of the following is NOT one of its current achievements?

first flyby of Saturn
first orbit of Saturn
first soft landing on Titan

... Pioneer 11 actually conducted the first flyby of Saturn back in 1979, but the Cassini-Huygens probe entered Saturn's orbit on July 1, 2004, and its Huygens probe landed on Saturn's moon Titan on Jan. 14, 2005.


Question 11 of 20

Only one space probe has explored the outer plants of Uranus and Neptune. Can you guess which one?

Pioneer 11
Voyager 1
Voyager 2

... Voyager 2 passed Uranus in January 1986 and Neptune in August 1989. Pioneer 11 and Voyager 1 bypassed the two planets.


Question 12 of 20

Pluto may not be a true planet, but astronomers still think it's worthy of exploration. On Jan. 19, 2006, NASA got serious about exploring Pluto with its New Horizons mission. What year will the probe make its closest approach to this dwarf planet of the Kuiper Belt?


... New Horizons will come closest to Pluto on July 14, 2015, as it continues on into the Kuiper Belt to study the region's countless frozen fragments.


Question 13 of 20

There's more to our solar system than planets, moons and dwarf planets. On what object did NASA's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft successfully land in 2001?

a comet
an asteroid
a Kuiper Belt object

... On Feb. 12, 2001, NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) Shoemaker craft successfully touched down on the asteroid Eros.


Question 14 of 20

Asteroids are fine, but what about comets? Which space program carried out its mission to slam head-on into a soaring comet on July 4, 2005?

Deep Impact
Silent Running

... With a ramming speed of 6.3 miles per second (10.3 kilometers per second), the Deep Impact probe collided with the comet Tempel 1. An accompanying mothership documented the impact and the debris.


Question 15 of 20

Which spacecraft holds the honors as the first man-made object to leave the solar system?

Pioneer 10
Voyager 1
Interstellar 1

... Pioneer 10 became the first man-made object to leave the solar system and travel into interstellar space when it passed beyond Pluto's orbit in 1983. Given its current trajectory, it should reach its next point of interest, the red giant Aldebaran, in 2 million years.


Question 16 of 20

The Pioneer and Voyager probes carried special messages for any extraterrestrials who might find them drifting in the void. Which of the following items was NOT included?

a diagram of the solar system
recordings of music and natural sounds such as whale song
anatomically correct images of nude humans

... While the Pioneer probes carried a plaque etched with a nude male and a nude female, NASA officials censored the female image to more closely resemble the nether regions of a Barbie doll. While Carl Sagan tried to include naked photographs on the subsequent Voyager missions, NASA officials allowed only silhouette images.


Question 17 of 20

So yes, humans have heaved numerous probes out into the solar system and some have even landed on extraterrestrial terrain. When it comes to human visitation, however, we've only made it to the moon. What was the first manned mission on the lunar surface?

Apollo 11
Zond 10
Apollo 13

... NASA certainly won the lunar portion of the space race on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed the first humans on the moon. Zond 10 was a canceled, unmanned Soviet lunar mission.


Question 18 of 20

The United States remains the only country to land humans on the lunar surface. Just how many missions did NASA successfully send to the moon?


... NASA launched seven missions to the moon, but the failure of Apollo 13 meant that only six reached the lunar surface. That last mission, Apollo 17, left the moon on Dec. 14, 1972.


Question 19 of 20

One of the hottest topics in space exploration is the hunt for exoplanets, Earth-like worlds orbiting distant stars. Can you name the NASA space observatory designed specifically to spot these extraterrestrial worlds?

the Kepler telescope
the Hubble telescope
the Keck interferometer

... Launched on March 7, 2009, the Kepler space telescope is designed to detect Earth-like worlds in distant solar systems


Question 20 of 20

Oh hey, but there's also a very Earth-like planet right here. As fascinated as we are by distant worlds, we also launch space probes to improve our terrestrial knowledge as well. Which of the following missions studies Earth's gravity?


... Launched on March 17, 2002, NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites conduct detailed measurements of Earth's gravity field.


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