History of Human Spaceflight

  • Space Men: Testing the Limits of the Human Body

    Discover how America's journey to space was paved by pioneers in the 1950s and 60s who tested the limits of human physiology in this excerpt from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Space Men. Not satisfied with the accepted belief that 18 Gs--or 18 times the pull of gravity--could kill a person, U.S. Air Force aviation doctor, John Paul Stapp, set out to prove humans could survive acceleration and deceleration at rapid speeds and from dizzying heights. This resource is part of the American Experience collection.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Space Men: A New Frontier for the 19th Century

    Explore dangerous heights alongside early balloonists who risked their lives to explore the upper atmosphere, in this excerpt from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: Space Men. In 1862, Englishmen James Glaisher and Henry Coxwell set out on a scientific mission to explore high altitudes. They had no idea they would encounter extreme cold or thinning oxygen levels and nearly lost their lives as they reached over 29,000 feet, higher than any human had gone before. This resource is part of the American Experience collection

    Grades: 6-12
  • Alan Shepard | PBS World Explorers

    Alan Shepard was the first American in space and the fifth person on the lunar surface. 

    Grades: 4-8
  • Astronauts Speak: Gene Cernan

    Being an astronaut in orbit looks easy. Under conditions of "weightlessness," they seem to float about their spacecraft effortlessly, somersaulting and gulping beverages out of midair. However, as one of the first astronauts to "walk" in space recounts in this interview transcript from NOVA, there's nothing easy about working in space.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Astronauts in Hard Hats

    It's not all fun and games walking in space. While astronauts are free from the force of gravity, they struggle against other forces, ones we also experience here on Earth, but seldom notice. In these media-rich interviews from NOVA, NASA astronauts describe the difficulties of working in space and some of the strategies and equipment they use to overcome them.

    Grades: 6-12