I’m absolutely smitten with the idea of space travel and, by extension, a total sucker for almost any space hardware. Of course, the most exciting bits of space hardware are actual crewed spacecraft. So far, humanity has produced, by my count, ten separate spacecraft to carry us into space. Here’s a chart of them all.
Now, to clarify, I’m only including craft that have taken humans into orbit or beyond; there’s at least two sub-orbital craft I didn’t include here, Spaceship One and the X-15. I mean no disrespect to either of those craft, but I wanted to make a chart of spacecraft that have spent more significant amounts of time in space. I’m also not including space stations, like Skylab, or the ISS — those are destinations, and I’m focusing more on vehicles, though, admittedly, the difference can get a little fuzzy up there.
I’m also including the Lunar Excursion Module, which, was designed only for use in space, and, perhaps controversially, the Manned Maneuvering Unit used on three Shuttle missions in 1984. Combined with the astronaut’s space suit, I feel as though the MMU/Spacesuit system constitutes a spacecraft, albeit a very small and limited one.
There’s at least two new crewed spacecraft coming up soon — the Dragon crewed capsule and the Orion. Orion is being designed to reach lunar, translunar, and possibly even Martian orbits, while the Dragon is mostly intended as a ferry to the ISS. When these have their first flights, I’ll update the chart, why not?
The chart organizes the ships on the X-axis by year first launched, and the approximate and pretty-much-unscaled Y-axis shows the greatest orbital apogee (highest point) achieved by the crewed craft, except for the Apollo CSM and LM, which I just indicated made it to a Lunar orbit.
So, there it is — the ten human-carrying spaceships humankind has built so far. I hope this is just the start, and when I’m updating this chart days before my forced retirement at some point in the future (probably after some weird embarrassing scandal), I really hope I have a lot more ships to cram in.
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