International Day of Human Space Flight—Behind Every Giant Leap There are a Thousand Small Steps

On April 12th 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel to outer space. Sixty years later the final frontier seems closer than it ever has, in fact there are seven people in space right now. It seems a small number, given the progress that we have made as a species since Gagarin set off in Vostok 1, but it is a testament to the challenges of even maintaining human life in the most hostile environment in existence. On the International Day of Human Space Flight MDPI would like to acknowledge not just those who push the boundaries in the most fundamental sense, but the countless others who work to take the small steps behind our most giant of leaps.

The astrophysicists, biologists, chemists, geologists and many more who work to enable human space flight face tasks which are stranger, more complex and vastly more difficult than any you see in science fiction for one simple reason—their solutions have to work, for real. They are in the business of infinity; when it is your job to think of every eventuality in a place that is too large to comprehend, there will always be another problem to solve. In January 2021, an article describing Real-Time Culture-Independent Microbial Profiling Onboard the International Space Station Using Nanopore Sequencing was published in Genes, paving the way for longer space flights with their sights trained on manned missions to Mars.

Marcin Kaczmarzyk and Michał Musiał published a Parametric Study of Lunar Base Power Systems in Energies in February 2021, an article which highlights the intrinsic constraints of any mission incorporating space flight—making the technology light enough to get there in the first place. I always wanted to be an astronaut, wanting to be part of the miracle of human space flight and go further than anyone had ever gone before. The more I learn about the work that goes into every tiny aspect of space travel, the more I understand that there is no part more important than that played by the scientists of all disciplines who dedicate their lives to getting us off the ground.

Despite sixty years and countless hours of progress, human space flight is still in its infancy and there is literally infinitely far to go. If the concepts and challenges of space travel aren’t already too awesome to understand, that which we have yet to discover promises to be even more incredible. Keep an eye on the Special Issues Galaxies Observation and Theoretical Features in Galaxies and New Space: Advances in Space Science and Engineering in Aerospace to learn what there is left out there to explore and how we’re going to do it.

When Yuri Gagarin took off in Vostok 1 I doubt he anticipated that we would one day be able to do PCR in space or that NASA’s Perseverance Rover would be tweeting from the surface of Mars. On the International Day of Human Space Flight MDPI would like to thank all of the astronauts and scientists all over (and up above) the world doing amazing things in the name of space exploration.