Big or small, space agencies on Earth have one thing in common: a love of the great beyond. We’d like to introduce our celestial map of how far each nation has journeyed into space—and the collaborations it took to get there.
Where to begin? Select a space agency at the top!
Where to begin? Select a space agency at the top! Credit: Now.Space
When space news ekes its way into our feeds, it’s usually of immense accomplishments and the occasional blip of failure. But in between each successful trek or hiccup is an untold story of space exploration. Since the mid-20th century, Earth has had more than 70 space agencies and alliances. Armed with this celestial map, you can see just how far each nation or group’s contributions have made it into space, even if no one got to see those blissful, tear-filled moments of pure joy that explode in mission control rooms. Sometimes an agency will provide a mirror, or maybe just a rover instrument. Whatever the contribution, we tried to wrangle it and map it. To use the map, just click and drag it to see the distances humans have gone.
So many agencies! Who knew? Credit: Now.Space
But while researching the intricacies of these missions and running into more dead-ends than an ill-destined crash test dummy, one thing became glaringly clear: Lone ventures into the universe are rare. That, and getting lost in translation isn’t as charming as Sofia Coppola has led us to believe, at least when it comes to sifting through hundreds of international sites.
Lone ventures into the universe are rare.
Many agencies have partnerships with international behemoths, such as the European Space Agency (ESA) and Roscosmos, the Russian Federal Space Agency. Big players like China and the United States have become omnipresent in the web of galactic hitchhiking, but countries from Greece to Taiwan to Sri Lanka have all inched their way into space, even if it’s only within Earth’s reach.
Screenshot from the page for NASA. Credit: Now.Space
In fact, an incredible number of agencies have a presence in low-Earth orbit: The Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, for instance, launched its satellite LAPAN A2/Orari satellite to monitor ship movements and other sea-related explorations from India, as reported by the Times of India. Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences (NARSS) has also dabbled in Earth-observation satellites, poking and disseminating data from SPOT4, which was designed by France’s Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). Thailand has an Earth-observation system named THEOS that was also developed in France hovering over 800 kilometers above us.
Screenshot from the page for LAPAN, Indonesia’s space agency. Credit: Now.Space
See what we mean? Space agencies are heavily entangled, and it’s an exciting knot to pick apart. (Though you should be fully prepared to spend a lot of time with Google translations.)
Space agencies are heavily entangled, and it’s an exciting knot to pick apart.
Mapping the treks also revealed a lot of surprises about just how far some countries have actually gotten. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), for instance, sent a probe named Hayabusa on a 2 billion-kilometer orbiting journey to an asteroid named 25143 Itokawa. Like many countries, Norway has contributed to the International Space Station, but its other notable contributions include cutting-edge technology for Ariane 5 carrier rockets and an instrument that put it as far as Saturn aboard the Cassini mission. Dozens of agencies have launched remote sensing satellites (which may or may not now be part of the minefield of garbage surrounding Earth.)
Screenshot from the page for JAXA, Japan’s space agency. Credit: Now.Space
The crown for the farthest anyone or anything has traveled, though, goes to the National Aeronautics Space Administration, better known as NASA, for the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which has catapulted out of the solar system and into interstellar space.
Though mission leaders get most of the glory, we’d like to devote a chunk of the spotlight to the agencies that haven’t made headlines. Because without their intellect and hard work, we wouldn’t have gone where no one’s been before.