History Of Space Travel: From Science Fiction To Science Fact

By Grace Taylor
A view of the Earth appears over the Lunar horizon as the Apollo 11 Command Module comes into view of the Moon before Astronatus Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr. leave in the Lunar Module, Eagle, to become the first men to walk on the Moon's surface. (

Humans have been dreaming of visiting the stars for over a millennium, with ancient Sanskrit writings dating back to 300 C.E. telling of mythological flying machines, or vimanas, which could be used by the gods to visit the heavens above. Likewise, Lucian: A True Story, the tale of a mortal man who gets caught up in an interstellar war between godlike space beings, was written in the Ancient Greek language around 170 C.E. by Lucian of Samosata (who, despite the title, admitted that the story was, in fact, not true).

Many historians point to this novella as the first written work of science-fiction, although it wasn't until 1818's Frankenstein by Mary Shelley that the genre really got going. Soon, numerous tales of space exploration or invasions were written, from the 1898 H.G. Wells novel War Of The Worlds to the 1942 Isaac Asimov galactic empire series Foundation. Actually going to the stars still seemed like fantasy, however, until the 1944 real-life success of Germany's V2 rocket, the very first man-made object to actually make it into space.