GIANT LEAPS

Photos: Looking back at the evolution of human spaceflight

Mae Jamison aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992.
Mae Jamison aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992.
Image: NASA
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April 12th is the International Day of Human Spaceflight, a day set aside by the United Nations for recognizing the “important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples.” It is the anniversary of the first human in space, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who orbited the earth in 1961.

In the more than 50 years since Gagarin’s flight, the image of space travel has changed tremendously. The coffin-like module filled with a single man has been replaced by the International Space Station, a massive floating laboratory with upwards of a dozen men and women crew members representing multiple countries. Follow the evolution of human spaceflight in the photos below.

Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin in an undated photo.
Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin in an undated photo.
Image: AP Photo
Astronaut John Glenn photographed in space by an automatic sequence motion picture camera during his flight on “Friendship 7” in 1962.
Astronaut John Glenn photographed in space by an automatic sequence motion picture camera during his flight on “Friendship 7” in 1962.
Image: NASA
Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov does a weightless somersault outside Soviet spacecraft Voskhod 2, Mar. 18, 1965.
Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov does a weightless somersault outside Soviet spacecraft Voskhod 2, Mar. 18, 1965.
Image: AP Photo
Astronauts Edward H. White II (left) and James A. McDivitt inside the Gemini IV spacecraft wait for liftoff in 1965
Astronauts Edward H. White II (left) and James A. McDivitt inside the Gemini IV spacecraft wait for liftoff in 1965
Image: NASA
Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969.
Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969.
Image: NASA
An interior view of the Apollo 13 lunar module shows some of the temporary hose connections and apparatus which were necessary when the three Apollo astronauts moved from the command module to use the lunar module as a “lifeboat”. Astronaut John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot, is on the right.
An interior view of the Apollo 13 lunar module shows some of the temporary hose connections and apparatus which were necessary when the three Apollo astronauts moved from the command module to use the lunar module as a “lifeboat”. Astronaut John L. Swigert Jr., command module pilot, is on the right.
Image: NASA
A Skylab 3 astronaut participates in the Aug. 6, 1973 extravehicular activity (EVA) during which the twin pole solar shield was deployed to help shade the Orbital Workshop (OWS).
A Skylab 3 astronaut participates in the Aug. 6, 1973 extravehicular activity (EVA) during which the twin pole solar shield was deployed to help shade the Orbital Workshop (OWS).
Image: NASA
Astronaut David R. Scott operating a camera on the surface of the moon in 1971.
Astronaut David R. Scott operating a camera on the surface of the moon in 1971.
Image: NASA
Astronaut Edward G. Gibson, science pilot for the Skylab 4 mission, demonstrates the effects of zero-gravity as he sails through airlock module hatch.
Astronaut Edward G. Gibson, science pilot for the Skylab 4 mission, demonstrates the effects of zero-gravity as he sails through airlock module hatch.
Image: NASA
Astronaut Sally K. Ride, is shown here sitting in the front seat and looking out the windows of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.
Astronaut Sally K. Ride, is shown here sitting in the front seat and looking out the windows of the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.
Image: NASA
NASA Mission Specialist Ellen Ochoa, in the aft flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery, playing a flute in 1993.
NASA Mission Specialist Ellen Ochoa, in the aft flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery, playing a flute in 1993.
Image: NASA
Members of the space shuttle Atlantis crew and Russian space station Mir crew take part in a broadcast interview on board Atlantis Monday, July 3, 1995, in this image from NASA television.
Members of the space shuttle Atlantis crew and Russian space station Mir crew take part in a broadcast interview on board Atlantis Monday, July 3, 1995, in this image from NASA television.
Image: AP Photo/NASA TV)
John Glenn positions himself to take photos from the space shuttle Discovery’s aft flight deck windows on in 1998.
John Glenn positions himself to take photos from the space shuttle Discovery’s aft flight deck windows on in 1998.
Image: NASA
Mission specialist Guion Bluford, restrained by harness and wearing blood pressure cuff on his left arm, exercises on the treadmill, in 1998.
Mission specialist Guion Bluford, restrained by harness and wearing blood pressure cuff on his left arm, exercises on the treadmill, in 1998.
Image: NASA
13 astronauts and cosmonauts assemble for a 2009 group photo in the International Space Station. The STS-127 Endeavour crew includes US, Japanese and Canadian astronauts. The station crew members are Russian, Canadian, European and American.
13 astronauts and cosmonauts assemble for a 2009 group photo in the International Space Station. The STS-127 Endeavour crew includes US, Japanese and Canadian astronauts. The station crew members are Russian, Canadian, European and American.
Image: NASA
Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, used a digital camera to expose a photo of his helmet visor on Aug. 3, 2005.
Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson, STS-114 mission specialist, used a digital camera to expose a photo of his helmet visor on Aug. 3, 2005.
Image: NASA
Chinese astronaut Nie Haisheng shoots with a video camera in Shenzhou-6 spacecraft in 2005.
Chinese astronaut Nie Haisheng shoots with a video camera in Shenzhou-6 spacecraft in 2005.
Image: AP Photo / Xinhua/Zha Chunming
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly captured this sunrise over Earth on Jan. 24, 2016
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly captured this sunrise over Earth on Jan. 24, 2016
Image: Scott Kelly/NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, is pictured in the Cupola of the International Space Station in 2011.
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, is pictured in the Cupola of the International Space Station in 2011.
Image: NASA
Students watch a live broadcast of a lecture given by Shenzhou-10 spacecraft astronauts on the Tiangong-1 space module, at a school in Beijing, June 20, 2013.
Students watch a live broadcast of a lecture given by Shenzhou-10 spacecraft astronauts on the Tiangong-1 space module, at a school in Beijing, June 20, 2013.
Image: Reuters/China Daily