Car companies have been part of the space race for decades.

Make no mistake – the dramatic 2018 launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with a Tesla Roadster on-board captivated the car community, if not the world. It’s certainly not the first time a rocket was sent into space, but it is the first time a private company endeavored to reach beyond Earth's orbit, never mind sending an actual car with a spacesuit-wearing mannequin to orbit the sun. Anyone who caught the SpaceX livestream will attest to just how awe-inspiring it was to see the car floating in orbit, with the Earth growing ever smaller in the background. If you missed the five-hour livestream, check out the gallery of screenshots we nabbed before the cameras went dark.

Gallery: Tesla Roadster In Space

With the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing now upon us, we got to thinking about how automakers have contributed to space exploration. Tesla wasn’t the first car company to dip a toe into the final frontier – in fact, automakers have been part of the space race since the days of America’s Mercury program in the early 1960s. We did some digging to see what other automotive endeavors factor into space travel, and you might be surprised at what we found.

Browse the slideshow at the top of the page to see the many ways auto manufacturers and space have crossed paths.