On 4 October 1957, Sputnik 1 was launched from the Soviet Union into space. It was the first-ever satellite (an object that goes around a planet). Since then, about 8,900 satellites from 40 countries have been launched; over 550 people have been in space and 12 have walked on the Moon.

International Space Week is a time to celebrate the great achievements and discoveries of space exploration.

This year, Space Week is all about discovering how space exploration has affected our daily lives, with special focus on satellites.

Sputnik 1 has long since returned to the Earth’s atmosphere and burnt up. But there are many satellites still in space. In May 2020, there were about 2,200 in orbit and 3,000 “dead” ones.

From watching TV to using Google maps, satellites affect our daily lives. They are used in medicine, transport and space exploration.

Positioned above the Earth, satellites also provide information about clouds, oceans, land and ice. They measure gases, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. Scientists can use this information to predict and monitor climate change.

You can read more about space in our special on the future.

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If you met an alien, how would you greet them? How would you make sure it understood you were friendly? Watch this video to find out about some of the messages scientists have sent into space in the past.


  1. Design an infographic showing important moments in the history of space exploration.
  2. Imagine you moved to a foreign planet and could only take one suitcase of items to remind you of life on Earth. Make a packing list.