April 19, 1971: The USSR launches the first space station, Salyut-1.
Salyut-1 launched unmanned. Its first inhabitants arrived on June 7, 1971, as part of the Soyuz-11 space mission. The cosmonauts lived on Salyut-1 until June 30, at which time they attempted to return to earth, but perished when their capsule accidentally depressurized shortly before re-entry to earth’s atmosphere.
Six months later, Salyut-1 ran out of fuel and “de-orbited” (essentially suffering the same fate as its original human crew).
As a space station, Salyut-1 didn’t offer much room. It measured only 20 meters long and 4 meters in diameter at its widest point. But those diminutive proportions represent an enormous advance in human science and technology – it marked the first time human beings created a permanent, orbiting platform for space research.
Today, the international space station continues the pioneering work originated by the Salyut-1 and its brave, original three-man crew. The current mission (Mission 35) runs from March to September of 2013 – and if you’d like to see more, you can follow Commander Chris Hadfield’s Facebook page, which features daily photographic updates of the sights the commander and crew of the ISS see during their daily orbits around the planet.
Trust me…I’ve been following Colonel Hadfield for a while now, and his pictures are not to be missed.