This might sound like the set-up for a joke, but there really is a connection between the museum, NASA’s Apollo 16 mission and the USSR’s Luna 20 lunar sample recovery mission. Forty years ago, in April 1972, Apollo 16 became the fifth human mission to land on the Moon.
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Fifty years ago, in the early hours of February 21, 1962 (Sydney time), NASA astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, on board his Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7. Although two previous Mercury missions had flown brief sub-orbital flights, achieving orbit was an important goal for the US space program at that point in the Cold War contest of the Space Race.
Fifty years ago today, on April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was launched into orbit, becoming the first person in space. In the Cold War climate of the times, this event was not only a major technological and scientific achievement, but also a tremendous propaganda victory for the Soviet Union in the Space Race with the United States.