How long does it take to get to space? Before we answer this question, we need to define what 'space' is.

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The Kármán Line marks the official line between Earth's atmosphere and 'space' and is defined as being 100 km (62 miles) above mean sea level.

It lies within Earth's thermosphere and is above the reach of conventional aircraft that usually fly below 14 km.

In Low Earth Orbit, satellites travel between 160 km and 1,000 km above the Earth.

If you could hop in a car and travel straight up, it would take you about 1 hour 15 minutes to reach space, travelling at 80 km per hour (50 mph).

Space Shuttle Discovery launches from NASA Kennedy Space Center, 7 August 1997. Credit: NASA
Space Shuttle Discovery launches from NASA Kennedy Space Center, 7 August 1997. Credit: NASA

If you walked at an average speed of 6 km per hour (3.7 mph) it would take you 16 hours and 40 minutes to get to space.

NASA's Space Shuttle took about 8.5 minutes to get into Earth orbit, according to NASA.

On 16 November 2022, the Artemis 1 spacecraft took 8 minutes and 20 seconds to reach an altitude of 162 km (100.6 miles) above Earth.

The International Space Station orbits Earth 16 times in 24 hours at an average altitude of 420 km. It can take astronauts anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days to reach the Space Station, depending on the spacecraft used and the mission parameters.

How long did it take to get the first humans in space?

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, pictured in the capsule of his Vostok 1 spacecraft, 12 April 1961. Credit: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

On 12 April 1961, Yuri Gagarin launched in Vostok 1 at 06:07 UTC and reached his highest altitude of 327 km (203 miles) 10 minutes later, becoming the first human in space.

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On 5 May 1961, Alan Shepard, in Freedom 7, became the first American in space, when he reached a maximum altitude of 187.4 km (116.5 miles) 5:14 minutes after launch in a suborbital flight that lasted just 15 minutes.

Authors

jenny winder astronomy space
Jenny WinderScience writer

Jenny Winder is an astronomy writer and broadcaster.