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GIANT LEAPS

Photos: Looking back at the evolution of human spaceflight

NASA
Mae Jamison aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in 1992.
By Johnny Simon
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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 The coffin-like module filled with a single man has been replaced by the International Space Station, a massive floating laboratory with upwards of a dozen men and women crew members representing multiple countries.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.

AP Photo
Soviet cosmonaut Major Yuri Gagarin in an undated photo.
NASA
Astronaut John Glenn photographed in space by an automatic sequence motion picture camera during his flight on “Friendship 7” in 1962.
AP Photo
Soviet cosmonaut Alexey Leonov does a weightless somersault outside Soviet spacecraft Voskhod 2, Mar. 18, 1965.
NASA
Astronauts Edward H. White II (left) and James A. McDivitt inside the Gemini IV spacecraft wait for liftoff in 1965
NASA
Neil Armstrong in the Apollo 11 lunar module on July 20, 1969.
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.
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).
NASA
Astronaut David R. Scott operating a camera on the surface of the moon in 1971.
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.
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.
NASA
NASA Mission Specialist Ellen Ochoa, in the aft flight deck of Space Shuttle Discovery, playing a flute in 1993.
AP Photo/NASA TV)
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.
NASA
John Glenn positions himself to take photos from the space shuttle Discovery’s aft flight deck windows on in 1998.
NASA
Mission specialist Guion Bluford, restrained by harness and wearing blood pressure cuff on his left arm, exercises on the treadmill, in 1998.
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.
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.
AP Photo / Xinhua/Zha Chunming
Chinese astronaut Nie Haisheng shoots with a video camera in Shenzhou-6 spacecraft in 2005.
Scott Kelly/NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly captured this sunrise over Earth on Jan. 24, 2016
NASA
NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, Expedition 26 commander, is pictured in the Cupola of the International Space Station in 2011.
Reuters/China Daily
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.

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