Space exploration

Fifty years on from the Apollo 11 Moon landing, a new 'space race' is underway.

NASA, the European Space Agency, China, India and more are all planning missions to the Moon. Lunar space stations and Moon bases are not confined to the realms of sci-fi – they are genuine mission objectives.

Robotic rovers meanwhile are right now exploring the surface of Mars, and even more ambitious missions to the 'red planet' are planned in the years ahead. Probes and space telescopes are helping to answer the biggest questions in the universe, from the search for life to the origins of the stars and planets.

The biggest space missions launching in 2020

A computer generate image of Mars at daybreak, showing part of the Gale Crater illuminated (NASA)

Upcoming missions from NASA, the European Space Agency, SpaceX and more

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But it's not just countries who are trying to go where no human has gone before. Commercial space companies, such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Boeing and Virgin Galactic, are investing huge sums in spacecraft and space research. Often working in partnership with agencies such as NASA, these private companies could the face of space travel forever.

Find out more about current and future space missions, and take a trip back through the history of the space race.

Journey through space and time at the Royal Observatory

Apollo 14 Astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr. assembles equipment on the lunar surface in Feburary 1971.jpg

The first crewed lunar landing in 1969 was a historic triumph for the USA and humankind. Including the Apollo 11 mission, 12 men have walked on the Moon. But who were they? 

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NASA recordings of the final 13 minutes of the Apollo 11 Moon landing capture the tension and the triumph of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins's historic mission. Follow the radio communications between the astronauts and Mission Control during the lunar module's descent.

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In the 50 years since the Apollo 11 Moon landing, humans have made extraordinary progress in space exploration. But what is the next giant leap for crewed spaceflight – and could 'space tourism' soon become a reality?

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The story of how we got humans to the Moon is a well-documented one. But what about after we leave the lunar surface – what is left behind?

Apollo 17 commander Eugene A Cernan is holding the lower corner of the American flag during the mission's first EVA December 12 1972 Photograph by Harrison J Jack Schmitt.jpg

In July 1969 humans landed on the Moon for the first time, as part of the Apollo 11 mission. But why haven't we been back since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972?

Zambian Space Programme

It was not just the US and the Soviet Union racing to the Moon in the 1960s. A 1964 article in Time magazine about the independence of Zambia included a footnote referring to one man who was not so happy about the celebrations - because it was getting in the way of his space program.

The Hubble Space Telescope as seen from the departing Space Shuttle Atlantis, flying STS-125, HST Servicing Mission 4.

Since its 1990 launch, Hubble Space Telescope has been dazzling the world with images of space and a deeper understanding of how the universe works.

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Anyone can enjoy looking at the Moon, but can anybody claim to 'own' it? Find out about the laws governing nations and people in outer space - and why 'buying' a plot of land on the Moon might not be all that it seems.

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What are the main differences between Hubble and the new James Webb Space Telescope?

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There are plenty of companies offering (very expensive) flights into space. But how close are we to true 'space tourism'?

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