We could say that National Space Day’s history starts at the beginning of the universe itself, when an intense pressure and temperature resulted in the Big Bang, exploding the universe and everything in it into existence.

Ever since, the curious-minded have been fascinated with space and its state of feeling so near and yet so far. Whilst early cultures identified things in the sky as gods or spirits, it was the ancient Greeks who developed the study of planets and stars into something resembling the astronomy we know today. Although the heliocentric system was first suggested by the ancient Greeks, the theory wasn’t developed and published until 1543 when Copernicus outlined his ideas about the planets revolving around the sun.

Astronomy was further advanced by Galileo Galilei in the 17th century, who has often been referred to as ‘the father of astronomy’ due to his avid pursuit of it against the wishes of his patrons, colleagues, and even the Pope. He invented important apparatus for observing space and proving his theories, although he spent much of his life under house arrest for his work.

Centuries later, space continued to be a contentious issue when the space race began between Cold War rivals, America and Russia. The two countries competed to be the first to achieve space flight and eventually put a man on the moon. The victory was America’s, when Apollo 11 and its team of astronauts landed on the moon on July 16, 1969.

In 1997, the Lockheed Martin Corporation introduced National Space Day as a one-off event, and it was later expanded to International Space Day in 2001, due to its extreme popularity, by former astronaut and senator John Glenn.