The Apollo program was the third human spaceflight program operated by the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which succeeded in its milestone goal of landing humans on Luna. The Apollo program spanned 11 years, from 1961 to 1972 CE, with the first crewed flight in 1968. The program had one major disaster which claimed three lives: Apollo 1 suffered a fatal cabin fire during a prelaunch test. Nine lunar surface missions were planned, though between budget cuts and another near-catastrophe (nonfatal) only six lunar landings were achieved.
On July 21, 1969, as millions of people watched remotely on the surface of Earth, two courageous men of the Apollo 11 mission became the first humans to set foot on a world other than their own: their planet's only moon, Luna. Their achievement, and the achievements of the other Apollo program astronauts, continue to inspire generations of humans to push ever forward into the frontier of space.
One of the most expansive space exploration projects conducted by humans during the 20th century CE, the 1977 Voyager program employed two highly versatile probes -Voyager 1 and Voyager 2- on diverging missions to visit all the known outer planets of the Sol system on carefully-planned flyby routes. However, the Voyager vessels remained operational for much longer than expected, and sent back readings from interstellar space after passing the termination shock in the early 21st century up until their loss of function in 2025. Because of the incredible longevity and speed of the Voyager probes, Voyager 1 was confirmed as the first human-made object to exit their home solar system in 2012, followed by its sister in 2018.
Once space travel was commonplace and efficient enough for commercial use, a small debate arose regarding whether or not to retrieve the Voyager probes. However, it was decided that they should remain on their courses as a testament to human achievement.
NASA's Space Shuttle program was the first implementation of reusable orbital spacecraft, and the first non-experimental use of a spaceplane design in orbital-class missions. The space shuttle orbiters, of which there were six, were highly versatile craft utilized in a variety of mission types: from satellite launch and maintenance to the transport of astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Out of 135 missions, only one failed: STS-51L (Challenger disaster, 1986.) Frequently praised even to this day as some of the most elegant and ingenious machines humanity has ever sent to space, the shuttle orbiters' success was a milestone in the development of spaceplane design, and influenced the development of starship companion shuttles in later centuries.
Initial construction completed Aug. 6 2000
The International Space Station was humankind's first collaboratively-built modular space station, beginning assembly in 1988 and remaining continuously occupied by humans since November of 1990 through the present day. The ISS forms the base structure of the United Nations Orbital Command Station, which was assembled around the ISS after the UNAC officially assumed control over station operations in 2005.
Initial construction completed Sept. 25 2008 CE
In 2002 CE, the core reactor block of the International Lunar Research Station was delivered in Lunar orbit by one of the SLS missions as part of the first Constellation program. Built cooperatively by NASA, ROSCOSMOS, ESA, ISRO, and JAXA, the ILRS was completed in 2008 CE and served as the base structure for the Deep Space Gateway.
On January 5 of the year 2010, the United Nations of Humanity formed a pact that would shape the future of the human species. This agreement, the formation and funding of an international space agency, was one of the most monumental moments of humankind's cooperation with each other. The United Nations Aerospace Coalition became the torch of the human species, fueling humanity's instinctive cosmic curiosity and driving the expansion of humankind further and further into space.
Construction completed Sept. 9 2008 CE
In 2010, construction began on the Deep Space Gateway (DSG), a UNAC lunar station project that laid the foundations for today’s lunar colonies and the LUNA-F base-station series (Lunar United Nations Aerospace Facilities). After assuming responsibility for the continuation and maintenance of the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS) established a decade earlier at the L1 point, UNAC made plans to expand the ILRS to provide support for in-space construction of large interplanetary (and later interstellar) vessels, paving the way for the settlement of Mars and the manned exploration of the rest of the system. On February 19rd of 2010, the first of the new assembly modules arrived and was added to the DSG, followed by a series of additions until the upgrade's completion in 2008.
The Ares program was a NASA-led crewed spaceflight project overseen by UNAC that succeeded in its milestone goal of landing humans on the surface of Mars. The Ares program spanned 24 years, from 2012 to 2036 CE, and five missions, each a duration of roughly 1050 days with roughly 530 of those spent on the Martian surface. All five missions were a success, and the final mission (Ares V) delivered both the ANCILE and the IMORS habitation module to Mars orbit in 2033.
On October 3, 2016 CE, after 260 days in space, the Ares I mission crew touched down on the surface of the planet Mars. Commander Aly Wilson was the first human to step on the red planet. Remaining on the surface of the rust world for a year and a half, the astronauts of the Ares I mission studied the composition of the red planet, tested the performance of new technologies, and determined which crops grew best in the harsh Martian environment. Thanks to the success of the Ares I mission, the Ares program was continued to the end of the fifth mission in 2036, after which they were supplanted by the Cadmus program responsible for terraforming the red planet.
The Europa Clipper was an unmanned interplanetary mission to Jupiter's moon Europa spearheaded by NASA, comprising of an autonomous orbiter and smaller lander. The Clipper was launched in June 2023 and arrived at the Jovian subsystem in October of 2029, making 75 orbital passes by the moon before correcting for a death plunge into the Jovian atmosphere to avoid contaminating Europa's tenuous biosphere. The probe also dropped its lander, the first human-made object to touch the moon's surface, which discovered microbial life in the Europan ocean: the first confirmation to humans of life beyond Earth.
Data return: 2049 - 2050 CE
2023 CE marked the beginning of humanity's ventures outside their solar system. On December 15 of 2023, the first hundredfold of the Breakthrough Starshot microprobe fleet launched on an escape velocity vector out of the Sol system and towards Proxima Centauri. Racing through interstellar space at 20% the speed of light, the fleet performed a thorough fly-through of the Proxima Centauri system in 2045, with the data reaching Earth just over four years later. After passing through the system, the microprobes gradually ceased communications with Earth until the last signal was sent on October 30, 2046.
Initial construction completed Apr. 16 2045 CE
As part of the extended Constellation program to enable extensive out-system exploration, the United Nations Aerospace Coalition planned a permanently-occupied station in low Mars orbit to follow up the Ares missions and oversee the long-term Cadmus program. In 2029, the core (power reactor and orbitloft engines) block of the International Mars Orbital Research Station was delivered in Mars orbit by the Ares IV mission, followed by the delivery and assembly of the habitation module by the Ares V mission in 2033. Additional modules were delivered by unmanned commercial spacecraft over the course of the early 2040s, and the IMORS received its first crew of 4 on April 16, 2045 to begin preparations for the Cadmus program.
In early 2031, the imaging component of the Sagan High-powered Exoplanet Observatory -the largest and most powerful telescope yet built by humans- was successfully inserted in an Earth-trailing orbit. Immediately it turned its gigantic eye on nearby star systems, seeking to capture the first detailed direct image of an extrasolar planet.
It succeeded.On November 9, 2031, SHEO-I beamed home the first visible-spectrum close-view photograph of a world bound to a star other than Sol. The subject of the image, though washed out and grainy, was clearly a terrestrial world, and it orbited none other than Sol’s neighbor Alpha Centauri.
The Cadmus program was the ambitious, century-long initiative operated by humans to make the planet Mars habitable to Terragenid life. Though such a project had been planned for decades prior, the unofficial start of the program was the deployment of the ANCILE (Aegis Nuclear Core Inductive Lagrange-1 Electromagnet) at Mars L-1 by the last Ares mission in 2033, allowing the artificial Martian magnetosphere to accumulate. The program was finally announced in 2048, with the unveiling of Minerva's prototype cometary redirection spacecraft.
Following this, the Martian atmosphere and water content was embellished considerably by the Cadmus I mission’s 2061 redirection of Halley’s Comet and numerous other, smaller periodic comets to a collision vector with Mars (a decision with considerable public backlash, but much benefit.) Cadmus II (2068), III (2072), and IV (2085) brought genetically engineered microorganisms to the surface of the red planet, designed to convert the atmosphere from carbon dioxide to oxygen and remove harmful chemicals from Martian minerals and water. After over half a century of no human activity on the Martian surface, the Cadmus V mission established New Thebes in Da Vinci Crater: humanity’s first permanent residence on a planet other than Earth.
Once a continuous human presence was established on the surface of Mars, humans could more directly monitor the progress of the terraforming initiative. In fact, the 2102 ansible test at New Thebes was cut short by Mars' first rainstorm, and about a decade later the burgeoning young Boreal Ocean reached the lower terras. Throughout these developments, autonomous Cadmus missions brought terragenid lifeforms to the surface of the planet to facilitate its terraformation, and in 2148 the Cadmus IX mission brought one final wave of oceanic life from Earth to Mars, finishing the Cadmus program proper.
Project Hearth was an ambitious space exploration initiative conceived and operated by Minerva with the goal of establishing a human presence on the asteroid 4 Vesta, a large metallic asteroid in the Sol asteroid belt. Hearth was part of a much broader, longer-term vision: the creation of a complex network of human settlements in the Belt in order to utilize its resources. Launched in late 2035, the Hearth fleet arrived at Vesta at the end of the following year and began to set up the self-contained habitat later christened Hestia Base. With this successful and monumental achievement under their belt, the Interorbital Operations Division began to plan an even more formidable feat: transferring their asteroid mining program's base of operations from Vesta to the dwarf planet Ceres later in the century.
The Duat Project was one of humanity's first attempts at asteroid mining, of a sort. The project, funded by private donors and orchestrated by the start-up company Ma'at Orbital Enterprises, aimed to hollow out the Earth-crossing asteroid 99942 Apophis and render the interior a self-contained environment suitable for human habitation. The autonomous excavation apparatus was launched to the asteroid during its close translunar flyby in March of 2036, and quietly completed its duties over the next three decades, reshaping Apophis into a hollow ark of sorts. When the asteroid made its next close approach to Earth in 2068, an ark-ship called Duat Alpha was sent to fill the hollow object with air, water, and terragenid life.
Powered by the enthusiasm behind Vulcan's discovery in 2031, a large unmanned high-yield nuclear-pulse probe (lovingly dubbed Spock by the population) was launched to the Alpha Centauri system in 2039. Cruising at a maximum velocity of 0.2c, Spock reached the system in 2061, falling into orbit around Vulcan later that year and deploying its lander Nimoy shortly after. However, when the mission data returned to Earth in 2065, it was revealed to humanity that naming the planet after the Roman god of heat and fire was a more apt name for αCenBb than anyone had ever imagined. Nimoy was tragically short-lived, though Spock itself lasted for several years before its transmitter finally malfunctioned and contact with the probe was lost.
After SHEO's mapping of the Proxima Centauri planetary system, the probe Copernicus was launched in mid-2039 to explore it. Copernicus followed close behind the
Breakthrough fleet at a brisk 0.3c, arriving in the system just after New Year’s Day of 2054- nine years after the data from Breakthrough returned home. The probe slowed to orbital velocity and parked around Prometheus, making detailed scans of the planet’s surface and taking high-resolution images to send back to Earth. A year later, after Copernicus’ onboard AI had determined a landing site, the surface probe was deployed. The results were stunning.
The Janus program was a UNAC crewed spaceflight project that succeeded in its milestone goals of sending humans to the Jupiter and Saturn subsystems and landing humans on the surfaces of all four Galilean moons as well as two Saturnian moons. The Janus program's 57-year span was split into two major phases: the Jovian and Cronian phases.
Initial construction completed May 20 2042 CE
Due to the unprecedented duration of the Janus I mission to the Jovian subsystem, it was clear that the Janus program's expeditions would need a large orbital base station to reside in and launch galilunar excursions from. As a result, the United Nations Aerospace Coalition commissioned Minerva, a prominent technology corporation with a highly successful asteroid mining initiative, to design, construct, and deliver such a station to Jupiter. In 2040, construction began on the Jupiter United Nations Outpost - Juno. It was completed two years later, and after five years of rigorous testing Juno was launched from Vesta to the Jupiter subsystem. The station arrived in Jovian orbit on May 28, 2051; just one day before the first Janus crew arrived to claim it as their new temporary home.
After the end of the Janus program's Jovian phase, Juno was largely unstaffed for decades until the UNAC instated a regular crew rotation via BIFROST in 2110, when a brief lull in interstellar mission activity allowed the space agency to refocus their efforts on Sol system exploration.
On May 29, 2051, after just under three years on course through deep space, the four-member crew of the Janus I mission reached Jovian orbit and docked with the Juno station to begin their roughly 500-day residency in the Jupiter subsystem. Each of the four crew members was the first human to step on one of the Galilean moons, beginning with Callisto and moving inwards to Io. While in Jovian orbit, the Janus I crew performed thousands of experiments across dozens of scientific disciplines, from analysis of Europan organisms to studying the behavior of Jupiter's radiation belts. Most importantly, however, was the fact that the experimental suspended animation technology aboard the Dyeus transit vessel performed more or less flawlessly, validating their use in future long-duration missions. Janus I's resounding success ensured the continuation of the program at least until the end of Janus III, after which the program was delayed in favor of the Arete mission to Proxima Centauri.
On the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Aerospace Coalition's foundation, the Boeing Interplanetary Ferry, Resupply, and Orbital Shuttle Transit, or BIFROST, was founded as a UNAC Commercial Partner Project to function as the resupply system connecting the International Mars Orbital Research Station (and later, New Thebes) with Earth. The BIFROST evolved over time to service the outer system as new outposts sprang up in the Jovian and Saturnian subsystems.
In response to the success of the SHEO planet-hunter program, a fleet of fast-traveling probes was constructed with the objective of exploring the other star systems within ten lightyears of the solar system. Called the Ambassador fleet, they were powered by antimatter engines enabling them to achieve a maximum speed of 0.8c at 10Gs of acceleration, and contained the most advanced AI systems of the time. The six probes were:
Initial construction completed Aug. 20 2078 CE
Due to the unprecedented duration of the humans' Janus IV mission to the Saturnian subsystem, it was clear that the Janus program's expeditions would need a large orbital base station to reside in and launch cronilunar excursions from. As a result, the UNAC commissioned Minerva, the builders of Juno, to construct an identical station for the even longer-lasting missions to Saturn. Construction began on the Orbital Platform for the Exploration of Saturn - Opes - in orbit of Vesta on March 18, 2076. It was completed two years later, and after two years of rigorous testing Opes was launched. The station arrived in Saturnian orbit on March 16, 2088; roughly nine months before the Janus IV crew arrived to claim it as their new temporary home.
The Arete mission of 2081 - 2105 was a 24-year expedition to the planet Prometheus in the Proxima Centauri system, and the first crewed interstellar voyage humanity undertook. Six humans aboard the UNSS Skyward Spirit dedicated two decades of their lives to the study of an alien world, and their courage and dedication paid off in unimaginable ways.
Humanity's first crewed interstellar expedition, sent to Prometheus in the Proxima Centauri system.
Project Ebisu was, in essence, the "sequel" to Project Hearth, being the seven-month-long transfer of Minerva's asteroid mining headquarters from the asteroid 4 Vesta to the dwarf planet Ceres, accompanied by the establishment of the settlement aptly dubbed Proserpina Base. During an exceedingly rare long-duration close pass of Vesta and Ceres, heavy equipment and habitat modules were launched from Hestia Base on Vesta to the surface of Ceres; this was an unprecedented length of continuous, complex interorbital travel in the Sol system not even matched by the much later Ishtar missions.
On October 14, 2088, after just over six years on course through deep space, the four-member crew of the Janus IV mission reached Saturn orbit and docked with the Opes station to begin their 820-day residency in the Saturn subsystem. Cmdr. Rivera was the first human to step on Titan, while Dr. Kuen was the first human to set foot on Enceladus. While in Saturnian orbit, the Janus IV crew performed thousands of experiments across dozens of scientific disciplines, from analysis of Enceladian organisms to studying the behavior of antimatter in Saturn's magnetic field. Janus IV's resounding success ensured the continuation of the program until the end of Janus VI, and the continued exploration of the Saturnian subsystem after the Janus program's end.
Just prior to the Arete mission’s arrival back in the Sol system, SHEO spotted something that sent human society into chaos. On January 17th, 2091 –almost 60 years since the discovery of Vulcan– the observatory sent home an extremely washed-out image of an Earth-sized planet emerging from the far side of Alpha Centauri A. A probe, cobbled together from spare parts of the Ambassador fleet, was sent to the system at breakneck speed, arriving in orbit in March of 2098. Elpis was christened for the Greek spirit of hope, as it bore the high hopes of the human species for an extrasolar home at long last.
Elpis discovered another life-filled planet, not tidally locked like Vulcan but with a day/night cycle akin to that of Earth. Orange-yellow autotrophs thrived both on the scattered landmasses and in the vast oceans, accompanied by strange fauna that often blurred the definitions of animal and fungus. Elpis’ lander trio, Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates, provided copious data that would eventually be crucial to the success of the manned Caerus mission.
Shortly after the results of Albert Einstein’s survey mission to the Sirius system returned to Earth in 2096, a new probe was launched to follow in Einstein’s relativistic exhaust trails. Dubbed the Aeneas, its 30-year mission was to study the Sirius and Procyon binary stars. After launch in 2100, the longest leg of its mission was the 12.7-year relativistic journey out to the Sirius system. Once there, it studied the Sirius binary stars and refueled on antimatter over a three year period. Upon completion of refueling, Aeneas began its 7.8-year trek to the Procyon system, where it spent the rest of its operational life studying those two stars. The data gathered by the Aeneas probe was crucial to understanding the behavior and life cycles of high-mass stars, and helped engineers to design the baseline structures of the Romulus and Remus city-stations.
The Aeneas mission was also the proving ground for fully sapient artificial intelligence. For a mission with such a long range and duration, scientists created an adaptable self-aware digital program capable of learning and running the mission on its own, dubbed Heuristic Onboard Managing Electronic Researcher (or HOMER). HOMER was a marvelous success, although his inclusion in a craft with a one-way trajectory was a hotly debated ethical controversy. In the end, however, the Aeneas was recovered from its wide stasis orbit around the Procyon binary and HOMER, after an upgrade, was integrated with Remus’ systems.
The Caerus mission of 2107 - 2131 was a 24-year expedition to the planet Fortuna in the Alpha Centauri system, and the second crewed interstellar voyage humanity undertook. Six humans aboard the freshly refitted UNSS Skyward Spirit were sent in the wake of probe Elpis to study this mysterious yet promising alien world, and their work paved the way for the future settlement of Fortuna.
The Ishtar I mission was a crewed expedition to Venusian orbit in the early 2120s that made use of an extremely rare and fortuitous orbital alignment of Apophis, Venus, and Earth. Launched from the asteroid Apophis, settled over half a century earlier by the Duat Project, the Ishtar I mission was the first interplanetary expedition launched from a body other than Earth or its moon. Built from the excess material left over from the asteroid's excavation in the 21st century, the UNSS Pandia carried her 10 crew members on a speedy week-long jaunt from Apophis to Venus during its long-duration close pass with Apophis in early 2120. The mission studied the boiling, caustic planet from orbit for a period of nine months before departing on a five-month cruise to Earth. A decade later, during Apophis' next translunar pass of Earth, the Pandia and her crew were returned to their original asteroid home alongside Duat Beta, ready to re-explore Venus in 2142's Ishtar II mission.
In the early hours of November 28, 2120 CE, a small team of scientists operating the Drygalski Crater Radio Observatory on the spacebound face of Luna detected a faint, sustained radio signal radiating from the apparent position of Tau Ceti. It was soon discovered to be of intelligent origin -in fact, it was later determined to be one of the first long-range voice transmissions conducted on Ra'na, leaking out into space. After two months of deliberation, a message of greeting was broadcast to Tau Ceti, and the United Nations Aerospace Coalition set about to planning an autonomous mission to the system. The probe Henry Stanley, equipped with full artificial intelligence and a spare ansible, was launched on a course for the system in 2130: three years before humanity's radio calling card arrived at its destination. In 2144, a return message was received from the inhabitants of Tau Ceti, who called themselves skae. They, too, had decided to send an autonomous probe, but their technological capacity at the time produced a nuclear-pulse vessel more akin to Copernicus than Stanley. However, it was never launched. Just a year after this return greeting, Henry Stanley settled into orbit and deployed its landers, one of which was equipped with a simple ansible intended for the skae to reverse-engineer. After almost a three-decade electromagnetic dance across twelve lightyears, the two species were finally able to communicate in real-time from 2145 onward, working together to coordinate a crewed expedition that would become the Perseus I mission.
The Constellation II program was an intensely productive period of human spaceflight, initiated by the construction and launch of the twin interstellar stations Romulus and Remus. In total, eleven stations were constructed and launched to various local star systems, although one (the UNSS Menaka) was destroyed in the first major space-based disaster since the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Though the Constellation II program did bring the first human deaths in space, it was instrumental in expanding humanity's presence in the local stellar neighborhood.
The Caerus II mission of 2122 - 2143 was a 21-year expedition to the planet Fortuna in the Alpha Centauri system, being the followup to Caerus I and humanity's third crewed interstellar voyage. Ten humans aboard the newly-built UNSS Cosmic Dawn were sent to Fortuna shortly before their predecessors departed on their return journey. Their continued study of Fortuna laid the groundwork for the planet's permanent habitation, in many cases quite literally.
In 2127 CE, Minerva launched a mining expedition to the asteroid 3 Juno from their Belt headquarters on Ceres. The expedition took over two years to reach its destination, but once the Hephaestion crew arrived, they began to construct Juno's first human station. This settlement is now known as the city of Heraclione.
Nine years after humanity's message of greeting was broadcast to Tau Ceti, the United Nations Aerospace Coalition launched the probe Henry Stanley, equipped with full ansible and a spare ansible, to the system. Just a year after Earth received the skae's return greeting, Henry Stanley settled into orbit of the planet Ra'na and deployed its landers. Henry served as an ambassador to the skae, learning their language and culture in order to better communicate with them. Once the Perseus I mission arrived at Ra'na, Henry was reprogrammed as the permanent shipboard intelligence of the UNSS Skyward Spirit, allowing him to continue his responsibilities as humanity's ambassador to alien life and explore the universe further.
In 2146 CE, an engineering team spearheaded by Dr. Lindiwe Mbali built the first working full-scale prototype warp drive, forever revolutionizing space travel. After extensive autonomous and remote testing, the Generation I warp drive prototype was approved for human spaceflight, mounted on a modified BIFROST Sleipnir shuttle, and flown by pilot Jesse Landis on June 15th, 2152. Captain Landis' two-minute, 54.6-million-kilometer flight from Earth to Mars made them the first human to travel at apparent superluminal velocity.
In 2180, all 8 humans aboard the UNSS Menaka as well as its onboard artificial intelligence were lost in a terrible, unprecedented catastrophe shortly after arrival in the Lalande 21185 star system. They were, unfortunately, the first humans to perish in the light of a sun other than Sol.