The cosmic adventures of two Britons have been named among the greatest space moments of all time. A poll of 2,000 adults voted Helen Sharman becoming the first British astronaut in space and Tim Peake’s five-month stay on the International Space Station among the top 20 moments.
Unsurprisingly, Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, the Apollo 13 crew returning to Earth safely and Sputnik becoming the world’s first space satellite took the top spots.
But the study also revealed 35 per cent wished they’d been able to witness the Apollo 11 moon landing first-hand. And 27 per cent have become more interested in space following the manned SpaceX launch earlier this year.
It also emerged more than one in 10 (11 per cent) think they’ve got what it takes to become an astronaut – and would be prepared to train for five years to make their dream a reality.
The research was commissioned by Disney+, ahead of its premiere of The Right Stuff, an original drama series based on the Mercury 7 – the USA’s first astronauts.
Other notable triumphs to capture the nation’s attention was the launch of the first space station, the Salyut 1 in 1971 – as well as the launch of the Hubble telescope in 1990. Research also found one in six Brits (16 per cent) would consider moving to Mars in their lifetime were it a possibility.
However, despite this enthusiasm, knowledge of all things space was not so strong, with 55 per cent incorrectly identifying the colour of the sun. Almost a quarter believed the sun to be yellow when it is in fact white.
And three quarters had no idea about the distance in which the Earth’s atmosphere ends and space begins – with 16 per cent believing it to be 62,000 miles away, when it’s actually just 62 miles.
One in five also thought the Earth was a perfect sphere shape and only 29 per cent could correctly identify the fact there are eight planets in the solar system.
And staggeringly, 32 per cent thought the moon was closer to the sun in the summer.
Despite this lack of knowledge, 62 per cent believe an understanding of space is vital for the future of humanity.
But while nearly a quarter of Brits are up for experiencing space as a tourist, 77 per cent don’t think a holiday in space is realistic in their lifetime.
And 42 per cent also believed not enough space exploration has happened in recent years.
British Space Scientist and Broadcaster, Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock said: “There is certainly an appetite to see more exploration of space in people’s lifetimes, while also looking back fondly on the amazing experiences so far.
“The story of the Mercury 7 is one many will not be familiar with but is actually an extraordinary tale.
“Being plucked from obscurity to become some of the first to attempt space travel would be a huge event in anyone’s life – let alone taking place in the 1950s before modern technology evolved.”
The Right Stuff is available on Disney+ from Friday 9th October.
BRITS TOP 20 SPACE TRIUMPHS
- Apollo 11 Moon landing – Neil Armstrong (20th July 1969)
- Apollo 13 returning to earth successfully (17th April 1970)
- First earth satellite – Sputnik 1 (4th October 1957)
- First spacewalk – Aleksey Leonov (18th March 1965)
- Apollo 8 – orbiting the moon (24th December 1968)
- The first space station (19th April 1971)
- Launch of the Hubble space telescope (25th April 1990)
- Tim Peake’s five-month stay on the International Space Station (Launched 15th December 2015)
- First American to orbit Earth – John Glenn – Mercury 7 (20th February 1962)
- John Glenn becomes the oldest human to travel into space aged 77 (29th October 1998)
- Creation of the reusable space shuttle (12-14th April 1981)
- First crew to reside on the International Space Station (2nd November 2000)
- First Briton in Space – Helen Sharman (18th May 1991)
- Alan Shepard becomes first American to enter space (5th May 1961)
- Luna 2 – First spacecraft to land on the moon (14th September 1959)
- First spacecraft (unmanned) landing on Mars (2nd December 1971)
- First spacecraft pictures of Mars (14th July 1965)
- Luna 3 – First pictures of the far side of the moon (7th October 1959)
- The Mercury 7 create a new profession (Astronaut) in the US (9th April 1959)
- SpaceX Dragon Endeavour launch into space (30th May 2020)