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Human spaceflight
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Human spaceflight

Human spaceflight is space exploration with a human crew, and possibly passengers (in contrast to unmanned space missions which are remotely-controlled or robotic space probes). Traditionally, these endeavours have been referred to as manned space missions, although today some prefer to use the term crewed space missions because they consider manned to be sexist. The term manned is, however, accurate when speaking of all U.S. spaceflight programs before the Space Shuttle program. NASA uses the term human spaceflight to refer to its programme of launching people into space.

As of 2004 they have been carried out by the United States, the Soviet Union (later Russia), the People's Republic of China, and Scaled Composites (a California-based company).

Human spaceflight missions beyond Earth orbit have been carried out by the United States only: to the Moon. NASA's Apollo program landed twelve men on the Moon and returned them to Earth: Apollo 11-17, except 13, i.e. six missions, with each time three astronauts of which two landed on the Moon.

On occasion, passengers of other species - dogs (Laika), chimpanzees (Ham and Enos the chimp), monkeys - have ridden aboard spacecraft. Some of these were killed in space or on landing, others were returned to earth alive.

The first human spaceflight was Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961: Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin made one orbit around the earth.

Apart from the US, Russia, and China, countries like India, Japan have active space programs. Indian Parliament recently sanctioned funds to Indian Space Research Organization for a human spaceflight by 2008. Japan is also rumoured to be involved in human spaceflight research.

In an attempt to win the $10 million X-Prize, numerous private companies are attempting to build their own manned spacecraft capable of repeated sub-orbital flights. The first private spaceflight took place on June 21 2004, when SpaceShipOne conducted a sub-orbital flight.

See also