Exploration is the act of searching for the purpose of discovery of information or resources. Exploration occurs in all non-sessile animal species, including humans. In human history, its most dramatic rise was during the Age of Discovery when European explorers sailed and charted much of the rest of the world for a variety of reasons. Since then, major explorations after the Age of Discovery have occurred for reasons mostly aimed at information discovery.
In scientific research, exploration is one of three purposes of empirical research (the other two being description and explanation). The term is often used metaphorically. For example, an individual may speak of exploring the Internet, sexuality, etc.
The Phoenicians (1550 BCE–300 BCE) traded throughout the Mediterranean Sea and Asia Minor though many of their routes are still unknown today. The presence of tin in some Phoenician artifacts suggests that they may have traveled to Britain. According to Virgil's Aeneid and other ancient sources, the legendary Queen Dido was a Phoenician from Tyre who sailed to North Africa and founded the city of Carthage.
The Romans organized expeditions to cross the Sahara desert with five different routes:
All these expeditions were supported by legionaries and had mainly a commercial purpose. Only the one done by emperor Nero seemed to be a preparative for the conquest of Ethiopia or Nubia: in 62 AD two legionaries explored the sources of the Nile river.
One of the main reasons of the explorations was to get gold using the camel to transport it.
The explorations near the African western and eastern coasts were supported by Roman ships and deeply related to the naval commerce (mainly toward the Indian Ocean). Romans organized several explorations also in Northern Europe, and as far as Asia up to China .
During the 2nd century BC, the Han dynasty explored much of the Eastern Northern Hemisphere. Starting in 139 BC, the Han diplomat Zhang Qian traveled west in an unsuccessful attempt to secure an alliance with the Da Yuezhi against the Xiongnu (the Yuezhi had been evicted from Gansu by the Xiongnu in 177 BC); however, Zhang's travels discovered entire countries which the Chinese were unaware of, including the remnants of the conquests of Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 BC). When Zhang returned to China in 125 BC, he reported on his visits to Dayuan (Fergana), Kangju (Sogdiana), and Daxia (Bactria, formerly the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom which had just been subjugated by the Da Yuezhi). Zhang described Dayuan and Daxia as agricultural and urban countries like China, and although he did not venture there, described Shendu (the Indus River valley of Northwestern India) and Anxi (Arsacid territories) further west.
From about 800 AD to 1040 AD, the Vikings explored Europe and much of the Western Northern Hemisphere via rivers and oceans. For example, it is known that the Norwegian Viking explorer, Erik the Red (950–1003), sailed to and settled in Greenland after being expelled from Iceland, while his son, the Icelandic explorer Leif Ericson (980–1020), reached Newfoundland and the nearby North American coast, and is believed to be the first European to land in North America.
Polynesians were a maritime people, who populated and explored the central and south Pacific for around 5,000 years, up to about 1280 when they discovered New Zealand. The key invention to their exploration was the outrigger canoe, which provided a swift and stable platform for carrying goods and people. Based on limited evidence, it is thought that the voyage to New Zealand was deliberate. It is unknown if one or more boats went to New Zealand, or the type of boat, or the names of those who migrated. 2011 studies at Wairau Bar in New Zealand show a high probability that one origin was Ruahine Island in the Society Islands. Polynesians may have used the prevailing north easterly trade winds to reach New Zealand in about three weeks. The Cook Islands are in direct line along the migration path and may have been an intermediate stopping point. There are cultural and language similarities between Cook Islanders and New Zealand Maori. Early Maori had different legends of their origins, but the stories were misunderstood and reinterpreted in confused written accounts by early European historians in New Zealand trying to present a coherent pattern of Maori settlement in New Zealand.
Mathematical modelling based on DNA genome studies, using state-of-the-art techniques, have shown that a large number of Polynesian migrants (100–200), including women, arrived in New Zealand around the same time, in about 1280. Otago University studies have tried to link distinctive DNA teeth patterns, which show special dietary influence, with places in or nearby the Society Islands.
The Chinese explorer, Wang Dayuan (fl. 1311–1350) made two major trips by ship to the Indian Ocean. During 1328–1333, he sailed along the South China Sea and visited many places in Southeast Asia and reached as far as South Asia, landing in Sri Lanka and India. Then in 1334–1339, he visited North Africa and East Africa. Later, the Chinese admiral Zheng He (1371–1433) made seven voyages to Arabia, East Africa, India, Indonesia and Thailand.
The Age of Discovery, also known as the Age of Exploration, is one of the most important periods of geographical exploration in human history. It started in the early 15th century and lasted until the 17th century. In that period, Europeans discovered and/or explored vast areas of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Portugal and Spain dominated the first stages of exploration, while other European nations followed, such as England, Netherlands, and France.
Important explorations during this period went to a number of continents and regions around the globe. In Africa, important explorers of this period include Diogo Cão (c.1452 –c.1486) who discovered and ascended the Congo River and reached the coasts of the present-day Angola and Namibia; Bartolomeu Dias (c. 1450–1500), who was the first European to reach the Cape of Good Hope and other parts of the South African coast.
Explorers of routes from Europe towards Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean, include Vasco da Gama (1460–1524), a navigator who made the first trip from Europe to India and back by the Cape of Good Hope, discovering the ocean route to the East; Pedro Alvares Cabral (c. 1467/68–c.1520) who, following the path of Gama, claimed Brazil and led the first expedition that linked Europe, Africa, America, and Asia; Diogo Dias, who discovered the eastern coast of Madagascar and rounded the corner of Africa; explorers such as Diogo Fernandes Pereira and Pedro Mascarenhas (1470–1555), among others, who discovered and mapped the Mascarene Islands and other archipelagos.
António de Abreu (c.1480–c.1514) and Francisco Serrão (14?–1521) led the first direct European fleet into the Pacific Ocean (on its western edges), through the Sunda Islands, reaching the Moluccas. Andres de Urdaneta (1498–1568) discovered the maritime route from Asia to the Americas.
Explorations of the Americas began with the initial discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), who led a Castilian (Spanish) expedition across the Atlantic, discovering America. After the discovery of America by Columbus, a number of important expeditions were sent out to explore the Western Hemisphere. This included Juan Ponce de León (1474–1521), who discovered and mapped the coast of Florida; Vasco Núñez de Balboa (c. 1475–1519), who was the first European to view the Pacific Ocean from American shores (after crossing the Isthmus of Panama) confirming that America was a separate continent from Asia; Aleixo Garcia (14?–1527), who explored the territories of present-day southern Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, crossing the Chaco and reaching the Andes (near Sucre).
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1490–1558) discovered the Mississippi River and was the first European to sail the Gulf of Mexico and cross Texas. Jacques Cartier (1491–1557) drew the first maps of part of central and maritime Canada; Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (1510–1554) discovered the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River; Francisco de Orellana (1511–1546) was the first European to navigate the length of the Amazon River.
Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521), was the first navigator to cross the Pacific Ocean, discovering the Strait of Magellan, the Tuamotus and Mariana Islands, and achieving a nearly complete circumnavigation of the Earth, in multiple voyages, for the first time. Juan Sebastian Elcano (1476–1526), completed the first global circumnavigation.
In the second half of the 16th century and the 17th century exploration of Asia and the Pacific Ocean continued with explorers such as Andrés de Urdaneta (1498–1568), who discovered the maritime route from Asia to the Americas; Pedro Fernandes de Queirós (1565–1614), who discovered the Pitcairn Islands and the Vanuatu archipelago; Álvaro de Mendaña (1542–1595), who discovered the Tuvalu archipelago, the Marquesas, the Solomon Islands and Wake Island.
Explorers of Australia included Willem Janszoon (1570–1630), who made the first recorded European landing in Australia; Yñigo Ortiz de Retez, who discovered and reached eastern and northern New Guinea; Luis Váez de Torres (1565–1613), who discovered the Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea; Abel Tasman (1603–1659), who explored North Australia, discovered Tasmania and New Zealand.
In North America, major explorers included Henry Hudson (156?–1611), who explored the Hudson Bay in Canada; Samuel de Champlain (1574–1635), who explored St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes (in Canada and northern United States); and René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643–1687), who explored the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada, and the entire length of the Mississippi River.
Long after the golden age of discovery, other explorers completed the world map, such as various Russians explorers, reaching the Siberian Pacific coast and the Bering Strait, at the extreme edge of Asia and Alaska (North America); Vitus Bering (1681–1741) who in the service of the Russian Navy, explored the Bering Strait, the Bering Sea, the North American coast of Alaska, and some other northern areas of the Pacific Ocean; and James Cook, who explored the east coast of Australia, the Hawaiian Islands, and circumnavigated the Antarctic continent.
There were still significant explorations which occurred well into the modern age. This includes the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806), an overland expedition dispatched by President Thomas Jefferson to explore the newly-acquired Louisiana Purchase and to find an interior aquatic route to the Pacific Ocean, along with other objectives to examine the flora and fauna of the continent. The United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) was an expedition sent by President Andrew Jackson, in order to survey the Pacific Ocean and surrounding lands.
Humanity is continuing to follow the impulse to explore, moving beyond Earth. Space exploration started in the 20th century with the invention of exo-atmospheric rockets. This has given humans the opportunity to travel to the moon, and to send robotic explorers to other planets and far beyond.
A 2015 study, performed on mobile phone data and on GPS tracks of private vehicles in Italy, demonstrated that individuals naturally split into two well-defined categories according to their mobility habits, dubbed "returners" and "explorers". "Explorers" showed a star-like mobility pattern: they have a central core of locations (composed by home and work places) around which distant core of locations gravitates.
The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (approximately from the beginning of the 15th century until the end of the 18th century), is an informal and loosely defined term for the period in European history in which extensive overseas exploration emerged as a powerful factor in European culture and which was the beginning of globalization. It also marks the rise of the period of widespread adoption in Europe of colonialism and mercantilism as national policies. Many lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited. From the perspective of many non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.
Global exploration started with the Portuguese discoveries of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores in 1419 and 1427, the coast of Africa after 1434 and the sea route to India in 1498; and from the Crown of Castile (Spain), the trans-Atlantic voyages of Christopher Columbus to the Americas between 1492 and 1502 and the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1519–1522. These discoveries led to numerous naval expeditions across the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans, and land expeditions in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia that continued into the late 19th century, and ended with the exploration of the polar regions in the 20th century.
European overseas exploration led to the rise of global trade and the European colonial empires, with the contact between the Old World (Europe, Asia and Africa) and the New World (the Americas and Australia) producing the Columbian Exchange, a wide transfer of plants, animals, food, human populations (including slaves), communicable diseases and culture between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. This represented one of the most significant global events concerning ecology, agriculture and culture in history. The Age of Discovery and later European exploration allowed the global mapping of the world, resulting in a new worldview and distant civilizations coming into contact, but also led to the propagation of diseases that decimated populations not previously in contact with Eurasia and Africa and to the enslavement, exploitation, military conquest and economic dominance by Europe and its colonies over native populations. It also allowed for the expansion of Christianity throughout the world: with the spread of missionary activity, it eventually became the world's largest religion.Chevron Corporation
Chevron Corporation is an American multinational energy corporation. One of the successor companies of Standard Oil, it is headquartered in San Ramon, California, and active in more than 180 countries. Chevron is engaged in every aspect of the oil, natural gas, and geothermal energy industries, including hydrocarbon exploration and production; refining, marketing and transport; chemicals manufacturing and sales; and power generation. Chevron is one of the world's largest oil companies; as of 2017, it ranked nineteenth in the Fortune 500 list of the top US closely held and public corporations and sixteenth on the Fortune Global 500 list of the top 500 corporations worldwide. It was also one of the Seven Sisters that dominated the global petroleum industry from the mid-1940s to the 1970s.
Chevron's downstream operations manufacture and sell products such as fuels, lubricants, additives and petrochemicals. The company's most significant areas of operations are the west coast of North America, the U.S. Gulf Coast, Southeast Asia, South Korea, Australia and South Africa. In 2010, Chevron sold an average 3.1 million barrels per day (490×103 m3/d) of refined products like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.
Chevron's alternative energy operations include geothermal, solar, wind power, biofuel, fuel cells, and hydrogen. In 2011–2013, the company planned to spend at least $2 billion on research and acquisition of renewable power ventures. Chevron has claimed to be the world's largest producer of geothermal energy. In October 2011, Chevron launched a 29-MW thermal solar-to-steam facility in the Coalinga Field to produce the steam for enhanced oil recovery. The project is the largest of its kind in the world.Exploration of Mars
The planet Mars has been explored remotely by spacecraft. Probes sent from Earth, beginning in the late 20th century, have yielded a large increase in knowledge about the Martian system, focused primarily on understanding its geology and habitability potential. Engineering interplanetary journeys is complicated and the exploration of Mars has experienced a high failure rate, especially the early attempts. Roughly sixty percent of all spacecraft destined for Mars failed before completing their missions and some failed before their observations could begin. Some missions have met with unexpected success, such as the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, which operated for years beyond their specification.Exploration of the Moon
The physical exploration of the Moon began when Luna 2, a space probe launched by the Soviet Union, made an impact on the surface of the Moon on September 14, 1959. Prior to that the only available means of exploration had been observation from Earth. The invention of the optical telescope brought about the first leap in the quality of lunar observations. Galileo Galilei is generally credited as the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes; having made his own telescope in 1609, the mountains and craters on the lunar surface were among his first observations using it.
NASA's Apollo program was the first, and to date only, mission to successfully land humans on the Moon, which it did six times. The first landing took place in 1969, when astronauts placed scientific instruments and returned lunar samples to Earth.Human mission to Mars
A human mission to Mars has been the subject of science fiction, aerospace engineering, and scientific proposals since the 19th century. The plans comprise proposals to land on Mars, eventually settling on and terraforming the planet, while utilizing its moons, Phobos and Deimos.
The exploration of Mars has been a goal of national space programs for decades. Preliminary work for missions that would involve human explorers has been undertaken since the 1950s, with planned missions typically being stated as taking place 10 to 30 years in the future when they are drafted. The List of crewed Mars mission plans shows the various mission proposals that have been put forth by multiple organizations and space agencies in this field of space exploration. Plans have varied from scientific expeditions in which a small (2 to 8) group visits Mars for a period of a few weeks or year, to the permanent colonization of Mars.
In the 2010s, numerous American, European, and Asian agencies were developing proposals for human missions to Mars. They are now developing and testing the technologies.
Mars in fiction is a frequent target of exploration and settlement in books, graphic novels, and films.Hydrocarbon exploration
Hydrocarbon exploration (or oil and gas exploration) is the search by petroleum geologists and geophysicists for hydrocarbon deposits beneath the Earth's surface, such as oil and natural gas. Oil and gas exploration are grouped under the science of petroleum geology.List of oil exploration and production companies
The following is a list of notable companies in the petroleum industry that are engaged in petroleum exploration and production. The list is in alphabetical order by continent and then by country. This list does not include companies only involved in refining and marketing.Mars Exploration Rover
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission was a robotic space mission involving two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars. It began in 2003 with the launch of the two rovers: MER-A Spirit and MER-B Opportunity—to explore the Martian surface and geology; both landed on Mars at separate locations in January 2004. Both rovers far outlived their planned missions of 90 Martian solar days: MER-A Spirit was active until March 22, 2010, while MER-B Opportunity was active until June 10, 2018 and holds the record for the longest distance driven by any off-Earth wheeled vehicle.Mars rover
A Mars rover is a motor vehicle that travels across the surface of the planet Mars upon arrival. Rovers have several advantages over stationary landers: they examine more territory, they can be directed to interesting features, they can place themselves in sunny positions to weather winter months, and they can advance the knowledge of how to perform very remote robotic vehicle control.
There have been four successful robotically operated Mars rovers, all managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: Sojourner, Opportunity, Spirit and Curiosity. On January 24, 2016, NASA reported that current studies on Mars by Curiosity and Opportunity (the latter now defunct) would be searching for evidence of ancient life, including a biosphere based on autotrophic, chemotrophic or chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms, as well as ancient water, including fluvio-lacustrine environments (plains related to ancient rivers or lakes) that may have been habitable. The search for evidence of habitability, taphonomy (related to fossils), and organic carbon on Mars is now a primary NASA objective. In June 2018, Opportunity went out of contact after going into hibernation mode in a dust storm. NASA declared the Opportunity mission ended on February 13, 2019, after numerous failures to wake up the rover from the repeated signals.Mars 2, Mars 3 were physically tethered probes; Sojourner was dependent on the Mars Pathfinder base station for communication with Earth; MER-A & B and Curiosity were on their own. As of February 2019, Curiosity is still active, while Spirit, Opportunity, and Sojourner completed their missions before losing contact.NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, ) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.NASA was established in 1958, succeeding the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency was to have a distinctly civilian orientation, encouraging peaceful applications in space science. Since its establishment, most US space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo Moon landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.
NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System; advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate's Heliophysics Research Program; exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic spacecraft missions such as New Horizons; and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories and associated programs.Norse colonization of North America
The Norse colonization of North America began in the late 10th century AD when Norsemen explored and settled areas of the North Atlantic including the northeastern fringes of North America. Remains of Norse buildings were found at L’Anse aux Meadows near the northern tip of Newfoundland in 1960. This discovery aided the reignition of archaeological exploration for the Norse in the North Atlantic.The Norse settlements in the North American island of Greenland lasted for almost 500 years. L’Anse aux Meadows, the only confirmed Norse site on the North American mainland, was small and did not last as long. While voyages, for example to collect timber, are likely to have occurred for some time, there is no evidence of any lasting Norse settlements on mainland North America.Oceanography
Oceanography (compound of the Greek words ὠκεανός meaning "ocean" and γράφω meaning "write"), also known as oceanology, is the study of the physical and biological aspects of the ocean. It is an Earth science, which covers a wide range of topics, including ecosystem dynamics; ocean currents, waves, and geophysical fluid dynamics; plate tectonics and the geology of the sea floor; and fluxes of various chemical substances and physical properties within the ocean and across its boundaries. These diverse topics reflect multiple disciplines that oceanographers blend to further knowledge of the world ocean and understanding of processes within: astronomy, biology, chemistry, climatology, geography, geology, hydrology, meteorology and physics. Paleoceanography studies the history of the oceans in the geologic past.Opportunity (rover)
Opportunity, also known as MER-B (Mars Exploration Rover – B) or MER-1, and nicknamed "Oppy", is a robotic rover that was active on Mars from 2004 to late 2018. Launched on July 7, 2003, as part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover program, it landed in Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004, three weeks after its twin Spirit (MER-A) touched down on the other side of the planet. With a planned 90-sol duration of activity (slightly more than 90 Earth days), Spirit functioned until it got stuck in 2009 and ceased communications in 2010, while Opportunity was able to stay operational for 5111 sols after landing, maintaining its power and key systems through continual recharging of its batteries using solar power, and hibernating during events such as dust storms to save power. This careful operation allowed Opportunity to exceed its operating plan by 14 years, 46 days (in Earth time), 55 times its designed lifespan. By June 10, 2018, when it last contacted NASA, the rover had traveled a distance of 45.16 kilometers (28.06 miles).Mission highlights included the initial 90-sol mission, finding extramartian meteorites such as Heat Shield Rock (Meridiani Planum meteorite), and over two years of exploring and studying Victoria crater. The rover survived moderate dust storms and in 2011 reached Endeavour crater, which has been described as a "second landing site". The Opportunity mission is considered one of NASA's most successful ventures.Due to the planetary 2018 dust storm on Mars, Opportunity ceased communications on June 10 and entered hibernation on June 12, 2018. It was hoped it would reboot once the weather cleared, but it did not, suggesting either a catastrophic failure or that a layer of dust had covered its solar panels. NASA hoped to re-establish contact with the rover, citing a windy period that could potentially clean off its solar panels. On February 13, 2019, NASA officials declared that the Opportunity mission was complete, after the spacecraft had failed to respond to over 1,000 signals sent since August 2018.Rover (space exploration)
A rover (or sometimes planetary rover) is a space exploration vehicle designed to move across the surface of a planet or other celestial body. Some rovers have been designed to transport members of a human spaceflight crew; others have been partially or fully autonomous robots. Rovers usually arrive at the planetary surface on a lander-style spacecraft. Rovers are created to land on another planet, besides Earth, to find out information and to take samples. They can collect dust, rocks, and even take pictures. They are very useful for exploring the universe.Royal Dutch Shell
Royal Dutch Shell plc (LSE: RDSA, RDSB), commonly known as Shell, is a British-Dutch oil and gas company headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the United Kingdom. It is one of the six oil and gas "supermajors" and the fifth-largest company in the world measured by 2018 revenues (and the largest based in Europe). Shell was first in the 2013 Fortune Global 500 list of the world's largest companies; in that year its revenues were equivalent to 84% of the Dutch national $556 billion GDP.Shell is vertically integrated and is active in every area of the oil and gas industry, including exploration and production, refining, transport, distribution and marketing, petrochemicals, power generation and trading. It also has renewable energy activities, including in biofuels, wind, energy-kite systems, and hydrogen. Shell has operations in over 70 countries, produces around 3.7 million barrels of oil equivalent per day and has 44,000 service stations worldwide. As of 31 December 2014, Shell had total proved reserves of 13.7 billion barrels (2.18×109 m3) of oil equivalent. Shell Oil Company, its principal subsidiary in the United States, is one of its largest businesses. Shell holds 50% of Raízen, a joint venture with Cosan, which is the third-largest Brazil-based energy company by revenues and a major producer of ethanol.Shell was formed in 1907 through the amalgamation of the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company of the Netherlands and the "Shell" Transport and Trading Company of the United Kingdom. Until its unification in 2005 the firm operated as a dual-listed company, whereby the British and Dutch companies maintained their legal existence but operated as a single-unit partnership for business purposes. Shell first entered the chemicals industry in 1929. In 1970 Shell acquired the mining company Billiton, which it subsequently sold in 1994 and now forms part of BHP Billiton. In recent decades gas exploration and production has become an increasingly important part of Shell's business. Shell acquired BG Group in 2016, making it the world's largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG).Shell has a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It had a market capitalisation of £185 billion at the close of trading on 30 December 2016, by far the largest of any company listed on the London Stock Exchange and among the highest of any company in the world. It has secondary listings on Euronext Amsterdam and the New York Stock Exchange. As of January 2013, Shell's largest shareholder was Capital Research Global Investors with 9.85% ahead of BlackRock in second with 6.89%.SpaceX
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., doing business as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. SpaceX has since developed the Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family, which both currently deliver payloads into Earth orbit.
SpaceX's achievements include the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008), the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010), the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012), the first propulsive landing for an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2015), the first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017), and the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the sun (Falcon Heavy's payload of a Tesla Roadster in 2018). SpaceX has flown 16 resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA. NASA also awarded SpaceX a further development contract in 2011 to develop and demonstrate a human-rated Dragon, which would be used to transport astronauts to the ISS and return them safely to Earth. SpaceX plans the maiden launch of its Dragon 2 spacecraft on a NASA-required demonstration flight in early 2019 and to launch its first crewed Dragon 2 later in 2019.SpaceX announced in 2011 that it was beginning a reusable launch system technology development program. In December 2015, the first Falcon 9 was flown back to a landing pad near the launch site, where it successfully accomplished a propulsive vertical landing. This was the first such achievement by a rocket for orbital spaceflight. In April 2016, with the launch of CRS-8, SpaceX successfully vertically landed the first stage on an ocean drone ship landing platform. In May 2016, in another first, SpaceX again landed the first stage, but during a significantly more energetic geostationary transfer orbit mission. In March 2017, SpaceX became the first to successfully re-launch and land the first stage of an orbital rocket.In September 2016, CEO Elon Musk unveiled the mission architecture of the Interplanetary Transport System program, an ambitious privately funded initiative to develop spaceflight technology for use in crewed interplanetary spaceflight. In 2017, Musk unveiled an updated configuration of the system, now named Starship and Super Heavy, which is planned to be fully reusable and will be the largest rocket ever on its debut, currently scheduled for the early 2020s.Space exploration
Space exploration is the discovery and exploration of celestial structures in outer space by means of evolving and growing space technology. While the study of space is carried out mainly by astronomers with telescopes, the physical exploration of space is conducted both by unmanned robotic space probes and human spaceflight.
While the observation of objects in space, known as astronomy, predates reliable recorded history, it was the development of large and relatively efficient rockets during the mid-twentieth century that allowed physical space exploration to become a reality. Common rationales for exploring space include advancing scientific research, national prestige, uniting different nations, ensuring the future survival of humanity, and developing military and strategic advantages against other countries.Space exploration has often been used as a proxy competition for geopolitical rivalries such as the Cold War. The early era of space exploration was driven by a "Space Race" between the Soviet Union and the United States. The launch of the first human-made object to orbit Earth, the Soviet Union's Sputnik 1, on 4 October 1957, and the first Moon landing by the American Apollo 11 mission on 20 July 1969 are often taken as landmarks for this initial period. The Soviet space program achieved many of the first milestones, including the first living being in orbit in 1957, the first human spaceflight (Yuri Gagarin aboard Vostok 1) in 1961, the first spacewalk (by Aleksei Leonov) on 18 March 1965, the first automatic landing on another celestial body in 1966, and the launch of the first space station (Salyut 1) in 1971.
After the first 20 years of exploration, focus shifted from one-off flights to renewable hardware, such as the Space Shuttle program, and from competition to cooperation as with the International Space Station (ISS).
With the substantial completion of the ISS following STS-133 in March 2011, plans for space exploration by the U.S. remain in flux. Constellation, a Bush Administration program for a return to the Moon by 2020 was judged inadequately funded and unrealistic by an expert review panel reporting in 2009.
The Obama Administration proposed a revision of Constellation in 2010 to focus on the development of the capability for crewed missions beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), envisioning extending the operation of the ISS beyond 2020, transferring the development of launch vehicles for human crews from NASA to the private sector, and developing technology to enable missions to beyond LEO, such as Earth–Moon L1, the Moon, Earth–Sun L2, near-Earth asteroids, and Phobos or Mars orbit.In the 2000s, the People's Republic of China initiated a successful manned spaceflight program, while the European Union, Japan, and India have also planned future crewed space missions. China, Russia, Japan, and India have advocated crewed missions to the Moon during the 21st century, while the European Union has advocated manned missions to both the Moon and Mars during the 20th and 21st century.
From the 1990s onwards, private interests began promoting space tourism and then public space exploration of the Moon (see Google Lunar X Prize).Spirit (rover)
Spirit, also known as MER-A (Mars Exploration Rover – A) or MER-2, is a robotic rover on Mars, active from 2004 to 2010. It was one of two rovers of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Mission. It landed successfully on Mars at 04:35 Ground UTC on January 4, 2004, three weeks before its twin, Opportunity (MER-B), which landed on the other side of the planet. Its name was chosen through a NASA-sponsored student essay competition. The rover became stuck in a "sand trap" in late 2009 at an angle that hampered recharging of its batteries; its last communication with Earth was sent on March 22, 2010.
The rover completed its planned 90-sol mission. Aided by cleaning events that resulted in more energy from its solar panels, Spirit went on to function effectively over twenty times longer than NASA planners expected. Spirit also logged 7.73 km (4.8 mi) of driving instead of the planned 600 m (0.4 mi), allowing more extensive geological analysis of Martian rocks and planetary surface features. Initial scientific results from the first phase of the mission (the 90-sol prime mission) were published in a special issue of the journal Science.On May 1, 2009 (5 years, 3 months, 27 Earth days after landing; 21.6 times the planned mission duration), Spirit became stuck in soft soil. This was not the first of the mission's "embedding events" and for the following eight months NASA carefully analyzed the situation, running Earth-based theoretical and practical simulations, and finally programming the rover to make extrication drives in an attempt to free itself. These efforts continued until January 26, 2010 when NASA officials announced that the rover was likely irrecoverably obstructed by its location in soft soil,
though it continued to perform scientific research from its current location.The rover continued in a stationary science platform role until communication with Spirit stopped on March 22, 2010 (sol 2208). JPL continued to attempt to regain contact until May 24, 2011, when NASA announced that efforts to communicate with the unresponsive rover had ended, calling the mission complete. A formal farewell took place at NASA headquarters after the 2011 Memorial Day holiday and was televised on NASA TV.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the
Mars Exploration Rover project for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington.Timeline of Solar System exploration
This is a timeline of Solar System exploration ordered by date of spacecraft launch. It includes:
All spacecraft that have left Earth orbit for the purposes of Solar System exploration (or were launched with that intention but failed), including lunar probes.
A small number of pioneering or notable Earth-orbiting craft.It does not include:
The great majority of Earth-orbiting satellites.
Space probes leaving Earth orbit that are not concerned with Solar System exploration (such as space telescopes targeted at distant galaxies, cosmic background radiation observatories, and so on).
Probes that failed at launch.The dates listed are launch dates, but the achievements noted may have occurred some time later—in some cases, a considerable time later (for example, Voyager 2, launched 20 August 1977, did not reach Neptune until 1989).
Missions in italics are unfinished, i.e. have not yet been designated as successes or failures. Some unitalicised missions are nevertheless still operational, some in mission extension phases.