Before the Beginning...
From the early civilizations, people have been trying to find meaning in the stars, and understand celestial objects. Mayan’s placed a huge significance on the sky, seeing it as communication from the gods, and as a system for keeping track of time. The Incas created their cities to reflect the astronomy on the horizon and used stars to improve agricultural practices. Gods and goddesses were often depicted as and found in constellations and heavenly phenomena in ancient Egypt. Ancient Chinese people created zodiac systems to explain human behavior based on the position of the stars at the time of their birth.
Come the scientific revolution, many early (and now well known) astronomers were questioning the geocentric model of the universe adopted by the church. In the early 16th century, Copernicus discussed the idea of a sun centered universe, and his thoughts were later further publicized by Galileo in the 17th century.
The Space Race
Beginning in the mid 20th century amid the nuclear arms race, the space race pitted the Soviet Union and the U.S., Cold War rivals, against each other to be the first to reach several space-travel technology related goals.
Today, the ISS orbits overhead (and can be seen from Earth of you look closely) along with hundreds of man made satellites, and several nations regularly launch space shuttles for research and resupply. The Voyager satellites continue their adventure into the unknown, and the Mars rovers aid research into the past of the red planet.
As the next frontier of human exploration, space leaves much to be discovered in years to come. NASA continues to seek faster and safer air and space travel technology, as well as methods to send astronauts to asteroids and Mars. Private aerospace companies such as SpaceX hope to send people into space without the help of government organizations. The future is sure to be exciting in the world of space exploration.