Leaving Earth's atmosphere: the space travel quiz

Olivia Seitz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

From our most historic moments in space travel to technologies yet to be tested, how much do you know about mankind's accomplishments among the stars?

Who was the first person in outer space?

Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union was the first person in outer space. He traveled one time around the Earth in the Vostok 1.

What happened on Gagarin's return flight?

Gagarin ejected from Vostok 1 and drifted to safety on his parachute, while the re-entry module crash-landed. This landing went as planned, although the Soviets did not reveal the details of the mission's end at the time.

The Viking 1 was the first to land on which planet?

Launched by the United States of America, the Viking 1 was first to land on Mars. It reached the surface in July of 1976.

As of February 2017, how far has a man-made object traveled away from Earth?

As of February 2017, NASA's Voyager 1 is over 20.6 billion kilometers from the Earth and counting; Voyager 2 has traveled a mere 17 billion kilometers. NASA updates the distance of Voyager on their website in real time.

What powers the new VASIMR engine?

VASIMR stands for "VAriable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket." Its source of energy is plasma: hydrogen gas superheated and ejected from the rocket.

What limitation is imposed on how fast would-be space travelers can go?

Humans must be able to survive the G-forces of rapid acceleration and they can't travel faster than the speed of light without bending space.

Some scientists have explored the possibility of using sunlight to propel a ship through space. What is the idea called?

Theoretically, a spaceship could travel through space using the pressure of light particles on reflective sails. The ship would gradual gain momentum and travel faster and faster.

What was the first reusable space shuttle?

Columbia was the first re-usable space shuttle. It carried astronauts to space and back for 22 years before its tragic explosion in 2003.

How much money did the first space tourist, Dennis Tito, pay for his eight-day vacation aboard the International Space Station?

$20 million is cheap compared to some of the other fares travelers have paid for a bird's-eye view of Earth: word on the street is that similar trips have cost up to $35 million.

Which rover landed on Mars' surface on August 6, 2012?

The Curiosity Rover launched on Nov. 26, 2011, and landed on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012. The Curiosity Rover is the size of a car, with six wheels.

What is the heliosheath?

The heleosheath is a bubble of charged particles around the Earth's sun. Solar wind in the heliosheath is slowed because of the pressure of clouds of gas from interstellar space. Voyager 2 entered the heliosheath in 2007 and is currently in the heliosheath in 2017, on its journey toward interstellar space.

When did Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon for the very first time?

They landed on the moon at 4:18 pm EDT on July 20, 1969. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon's surface at 10:56 p.m, EDT, he famously announced their success with the words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

What substance is necessary to fuel a hypothetical ramjet fusion engine?

If scientists were able to create a stable fusion reactor, the technology could be used to create the "ramjet" fusion engine. Spaceships could refuel by scooping elemental hydrogen from the surrounding space while they fly!

How quickly could a spaceship reach Mars using the VASIMR engine?

Initial tests suggest that the plasma rocket could propel a ship to Mars in just 39 days, which would be a new record if the rocket were used successfully.

About how long was the flight of the first woman in space?

Valentina Tereshkova successfully piloted a three-day mission in space. She orbited the Earth a whopping forty-eight times!

What is the name of the first successful space station?

The Soviet Union successfully launched Salyut 1 in 1971. Unfortunately, the station's crew were killed during re-entry because their capsule de-pressurized during their return to Earth.

In what decade was the U.S. nuclear rocket program (NERVA) shuttered?

The program, which investigated using nuclear fission to power spaceships, closed down in 1972 due to safety concerns. NERVA was an acronym for Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application.

In 2003, NASA received funding for Project Prometheus. What type of space propulsion does it study?

Decades after NERVA was shut down, Project Prometheus reignited the search for feasible nuclear-powered space exploration. However, the project was canceled in 2005.

What type of rocket can/could travel the fastest?

If scientists could harness the energy of antimatter, they could create a rocket powerful enough to travel closer to the speed of light than ever before. Antimatter rockets could power viable interstellar travel.

Which company designed SpaceShipOne, the first privately created spaceship to exit Earth's atmosphere?

In 2004, SpaceShipOne's pilot, Mike Melvill, made it 102 kilometers above the Earth's surface, a region considered to be the boundary of space. Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, helped fund the project.

How many years would it take a space shuttle to reach Alpha Centauri?

Assuming that a space shuttle like Discovery were able to reach a cruising velocity of about 17,600 mph, it would still take 165,000 years to reach the nearest star outside our solar system!

The British Interplanetary Society launched a project to send a spaceship to Barnard's Star using the power of miniature hydrogen bombs. What was the project's name?

Unsurprisingly, Project Daedalus was scrapped due to the safety hazards involved with launching a series of hydrogen bombs. As envisioned, the ship would have been able to travel at up to 12% s of the peed of light.

What is the slingshot effect?

Space vehicles can whip around a nearby planet or star, thanks to the gravitational force of such a large collection of mass. NASA used this technique to launch Voyager 1 out of our solar system.

What kind of ship could most easily travel near the speed of light?

Nanoships are humanity's best bet for exploring the universe quickly. Because of their tiny size, they could relay data without the risks and size requirements of a manned mission.

What is the current record for speeds humans have reached?

The current record was set by the crew of the Apollo 10. Their capsule reached a speed of 24,790 mph on its return from the moon.

Which shuttle launched the Hubble Space Telescope into orbit?

The crew of the Discovery had the honor of placing the Hubble Telescope in orbit around the Earth. It was established in orbit in 1990.

How many G's can a person withstand without losing consciousness?

Most people can tolerate about five G's (five times the force of gravity). With proper shielding, humans could survive travel in vehicles that are exposed to much higher acceleration speeds.

Traveling faster than light could be possible, according to some theorists, if an engine were created that could…

Stretching or ripping space would theoretically allow faster than light space travel, but we don't have any technology that suggests it is possible.

Which of the following is a hidden danger of space travel?

Space travelers must take into account high speeds of travel when shielding from small objects in space, and must also protect against the high levels of radiation in space.

Many expeditions include the search for water. Which of these has evidence of water?

Recently discovered data points to ancient bodies of water on the surface of Mars. Meanwhile, Europa and Titan are among several moons in our solar system believed to have water on their surfaces.

How many hours does it take for a signal to reach Voyager 1?

It takes sixteen hours for a signal routed through NASA's Deep Space Network to reach Voyager 1. This number will increase as Voyager 1 moves further from our solar system.

What would power the highly theoretical "Alcubierre Drive," which would be capable of faster-than-light travel if it were created?

Negative matter may or may not exist. Some scientists think that spectral phenomena revealed by "Einstein lenses" hold a clue to the existence of negative matter.

Which of the following companies, founded by Elon Musk, has delivered supplies to the International Space Station?

While all of the above are real companies, SpaceX successfully launched Falcon 9 from a NASA launch pad. The first rendezvous took place in 2012.

What event sparked the creation of NASA?

NASA was born on October 1, 1958, as a direct result of Soviet success in launching Sputnik, the first human-made satellite to orbit Earth. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the order.

How long was the first "free-flying" spacewalk?

Bruce McCandless tried the first tether-free spacewalk in 1984, using a jetpack to navigate the void. He enjoyed 90 minutes of floating before returning to his spacecraft.

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