50 Years of Space Travel In One Beautiful Solar System Map

Most missions through space are lonely. Solitary probes arc through the solar system, charming us with their photos and data, and eventually—quietly—fade into disrepair, or out of range. But witnessed together, they form something sublime.

National Geographic has combined mankind's nearly 200 manned and unmanned exploratory space missions into one infographic. It's not nearly to scale, and it doesn't even try to follow the actual paths of the various chunks of metal we've tossed into the ether.

50 Years of Space Travel In One Beautiful Solar System Map


But the broad strokes are all here, and they're fascinating: Of the dozens and dozens of probes launched in the last 50 years, precious few have made it past the asteroid belt; a handful have been tossed into the face of the sun; and just the luckiest, boldest pieces of hardware have been jettisoned into the outer reaches of our solar system.

NatGeo's got an interactive scrollable map here, but honestly, I'd skip straight to the poster-sized version on Flickr. [NatGeo via i09]