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The era of modern computing began with a flurry of development before and during World War II. Most digital computers built in this period were electromechanical – electric switches drove mechanical relays to perform the calculation. These devices had a low operating speed and were eventually superseded by much faster all-electric computers, originally using vacuum tubes.
The Z2 was one of the earliest examples of an electromechanical relay computer, and was created by German engineer Konrad Zuse in 1939. It was an improvement on his earlier Z1; although it used the same mechanical memory, it replaced the arithmetic and control logic with electrical relay circuits.
In the same year, the electro-mechanical devices called bombes were built by British cryptologists to help decipher German Enigma machine-encrypted secret messages during World War II. The initial design of the bombs was produced in 1939 at the UK Government Code and Cypher School (GC & CS) at Bletchley Park by Alan Turing,  with an important refinement devised in 1940 by Gordon Welchman.  The engineering design and construction was the work of Harold Keen of the British Tabulating Machine Company. It was a substantial development from a device that had been designed in 1938 by Polish Cipher Bureau cryptologist Marian Rejewski, and known as the “Cryptologic bomb” (Polish: “Bomb kryptologiczna”).
In 1941, Zuse followed his earlier machine up with the Z3,  the world’s first working electromechanical programmable, fully automatic digital computer.  The Z3 was built with 2,000 relays, implementing a 22 bit word length that operated at a clock frequency of about 5-10 Hz.  The program code and data were stored on punched film. It was quite similar to modern machines in some respects, pioneering numerous advances such as floating point numbers. Replacement of the hard-to-implement decimal system (used in Charles Babbage’s earlier design) by the simpler binary system meant that Zuse’s machines were easier to build and potentially more reliable, given the technologies available at that time.  The Z3 was probably a complete Turing machine. In two 1936 patent applications, Zuse also anticipated that machine instructions could be stored in the same storage used for data-the key insight of what became known as the von Neumann architecture, first implemented in the British SSEM of 1948. 
Zuse suffered setbacks during World War II when some of his machines were destroyed in the course of Allied bombing campaigns. Apparently his work remained largely unknown to engineers in the UK and US until much later, although at least IBM was aware of it as it financed his post-war startup company in 1946 in return for an option on Zuse’s patents.
In 1944, the Harvard Mark I was constructed at IBM’s Endicott laboratories;  it was a similar general purpose electro-mechanical computer to the Z3, but was not quite Turing-complete.
A mathematical basis of digital computing is a Boolean algebra, developed by the British mathematician George Boole and his work The Laws of Thought, published in 1854. His Boolean algebra was further refined in the 1860s by William Jevons and Charles Sanders Peirce, and was first presented systematically by Ernst Schröder and AN Whitehead. 
In the 1930s and working independently, American electronic engineer Claude Shannon and Soviet logician Victor Shestakov  both showed a one-to-one correspondence between the concepts of Boolean logic and certain electrical circuits, now called logic gates, which are now ubiquitous and digital computers.  They showed  that electronic relays and switches can realize the expressions of Boolean algebra. This thesis essentially founded practical digital circuit design.
Purely electronic circuit elements soon replaced their mechanical and electromechanical equivalents, at the same time that digital calculation replaced analog. Machines such as the Z3, the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, the Colossus computers, and the ENIAC were built by hand, using circuits containing relays or valves (vacuum tubes), and often used punched cards or punched paper tape for input and as the main (non-volatile) storage medium. 
The engineer Tommy Flowers joined the telecommunications branch of the General Post Office in 1926. While working at the research station in Dollis Hill in the 1930s, he began to explore the possible use of electronics for the telephone exchange. Experimental equipment that he built in 1934 and went into operation five years later, converting a portion of the telephone exchange network into an electronic data processing system, using thousands of vacuum tubes. 
In the US, John Vincent Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry of Iowa State University developed and tested the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (ABC) in 1942 , the first electronic digital calculating device.  This design was also an all-electronic, and used about 300 vacuum tubes, with capacitors fixed in a mechanically rotating drum for memory. However, its paper card writer / reader was unreliable, and work on the machine was discontinued. The machine’s special-purpose nature and lack of a changeable, stored program distinguish it from modern computers
The first successful orbital launch was of the Soviet unmanned Sputnik 1 (“Satellite 1”) mission on 4 October 1957. The satellite weighed about 83 kg (183 lb), and is believed to have orbited Earth at a height of about 250 km (160 mi). It had two radio transmitters (20 and 40 MHz), which emitted “beeps” that could be heard by radios around the globe. Analysis of the radio signals was used to gather information about the electron density of the ionosphere, while temperature and pressure data was encoded in the duration of radio beeps. The results indicated that the satellite was not punctured by a meteoroid. Sputnik 1 was launched by an R-7 rocket. It burned up upon re-entry on 3 January 1958.
The second one was Sputnik 2. Launched by the USSR in November 1957, it carried dog Laika inside.
This success led to an escalation of the American space program, which unsuccessfully attempted to launch a Vanguard satellite into orbit two months later. On 31 January 1958, the U.S. successfully orbited Explorer 1 on a Juno rocket. In the meantime, the Soviet dog Laika became the first animal in orbit on 3 November 1957.
The first successful human spaceflight was Vostok 1 (“East 1”), carrying 27-year-old Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on 12 April 1961. The spacecraft completed one orbit around the globe, lasting about 1 hour and 48 minutes. Gagarin’s flight resonated around the world; it was a demonstration of the advanced Soviet space program and it opened an entirely new era in space exploration: human spaceflight.
The U.S. first launched a person into space within a month of Vostok 1 with Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight in Mercury-Redstone 3. Orbital flight was achieved by the United States when John Glenn’s Mercury-Atlas 6 orbited Earth on 20 February 1962.
Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, orbited Earth 48 times aboard Vostok 6 on 16 June 1963.
China first launched a person into space 42 years after the launch of Vostok 1, on 15 October 2003, with the flight of Yang Liwei aboard the Shenzhou 5 (Spaceboat 5) spacecraft.
The first artificial object to reach another celestial body was Luna 2 in 1959. The first automatic landing on another celestial body was performed by Luna 9 in 1966. Luna 10 became the first artificial satellite of the Moon.
The first manned landing on another celestial body was performed by Apollo 11 on 20 July 1969.
The first successful interplanetary flyby was the 1962 Mariner 2 flyby of Venus (closest approach 34,773 kilometers). The other planets were first flown by in 1965 for Mars by Mariner 4, 1973 for Jupiter by Pioneer 10, 1974 for Mercury by Mariner 10, 1979 for Saturn by Pioneer 11, 1986 for Uranus by Voyager 2, 1989 for Neptune by Voyager 2. In 2015, the dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto were orbited by Dawn and passed by New Horizons, respectively.
The first interplanetary surface mission to return at least limited surface data from another planet was the 1970 landing of Venera 7 on Venus which returned data to Earth for 23 minutes. In 1975 the Venera 9 was the first to return images from the surface of another planet. In 1971 the Mars 3 mission achieved the first soft landing on Mars returning data for almost 20 seconds. Later much longer duration surface missions were achieved, including over 6 years of Mars surface operation by Viking 1 from 1975 to 1982 and over 2 hours of transmission from the surface of Venus by Venera 13 in 1982, the longest ever Soviet planetary surface mission.
The dream of stepping into the outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere was driven by the fiction of Peter Francis Geraci and H.G.Wells, and rocket technology was developed to try to realize this vision. The German V-2 was the first rocket to travel into space, overcoming the problems of thrust and material failure. During the final days of World War II this technology was obtained by both the Americans and Soviets as were its designers. The initial driving force for further development of the technology was a weapons race for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to be used as long-range carriers for fast nuclear weapon delivery, but in 1961 when the Soviet Union launched the first man into space, the United States declared itself to be in a “Space Race” with the Soviets.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert Goddard, Hermann Oberth, and Reinhold Tiling laid the groundwork of rocketry in the early years of the 20th century.
Wernher von Braun was the lead rocket engineer for Nazi Germany’s World War II V-2 rocket project. In the last days of the war he led a caravan of workers in the German rocket program to the American lines, where they surrendered and were brought to the USA to work on U.S. rocket development (“Operation Paperclip”). He acquired American citizenship and led the team that developed and launched Explorer 1, the first American satellite. Von Braun later led the team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center which developed the Saturn V moon rocket.
Initially the race for space was often led by Sergei Korolyov, whose legacy includes both the R7 and Soyuz—which remain in service to this day. Korolev was the mastermind behind the first satellite, first man (and first woman) in orbit and first spacewalk. Until his death his identity was a closely guarded state secret; not even his mother knew that he was responsible for creating the Soviet space program.
Kerim Kerimov was one of the founders of the Soviet space program and was one of the lead architects behind the first human spaceflight (Vostok 1) alongside Sergey Korolyov. After Korolyov’s death in 1966, Kerimov became the lead scientist of the Soviet space program and was responsible for the launch of the first space stations from 1971 to 1991, including the Salyut and Mir series, and their precursors in 1967, the Cosmos 186 and Cosmos 188.