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October 4, 1957

The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the first man-made objectto orbit the Earth. Sputnik 1 orbited the Earth at about 18,000 miles perhour, completing a full orbit in a little more than an hour and a half. In all, the satellite stayed in space for three months, traveling more than 37 million miles. The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union had begun.

November 3, 1957

Laika, a stray dog found wandering the streets of Moscow, Russia, becomes the first animal to orbit the Earth. While the experiment proved that a live being could survive being launched into orbit, and the weightlessness of space, Laika probably died a couple of hours after the launch due to stress and overheating.

January 31, 1958

the United States successfully launches its first satellite named Explorer 1. Launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, Explorer 1 discovered the Van Allen Radiation Belt, a belt of charged particles tapped in space by Earth’s magnetic field.

Launch of Explorer 1 – domain)


September 14, 1959

The Russian spacecraft Luna 2 becomes the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon.

April 12, 1961

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human being to orbit in space as part of the Vostok 1 space flight. Gagarin orbited the Earth orbited for one hour and 48 minutes. Vostok 1 demonstrated the advance levels of the Russian space program and launched a new era in space exploration.

May 5, 1961

Alan Shepard becomes the first American to travel to space in the Mercury-Redstone 3 program.

February 20, 1962

John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit in space in the Mercury-Atlas 6 program.

December 14, 1962

U.S. Mariner 2 becomes the first spacecraft to fly past Venus.

June 16, 1963

Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman to orbit in space as part of the Russian Vostok 6 program.

March 18, 1965

Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov walks in space for 12 minutes marking the first time a human has ever walked in space.

June 3, 1965

Edward White walks in space for 22 minutes from the spacecraft Gemini 4. White becomes the first American to ever walk in space.

July 14, 1965

U.S. Mariner 4 takes close-up images of Mars.

March 1, 1966

Russian spacecraft Venera 3 becomes the first spacecraft to touch Venus.

March 31, 1966

Russian spacecraft Luna 10 becomes the first man-made artificial satellite of the moon.

April 24, 1967

Russian cosmonaut Vladimir M. Komarov becomes the first person to die as a result of space exploration when Soyuz 1 crashes.

September 18, 1968

Russian spacecraft Zond 5 is launched. It would become the first spacecraft to orbit the moon and return to Earth.

December 21, 1968

U.S. spacecraft Apollo 8 is launched. It would become the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon and return to Earth.

July 20, 1969

Neil Armstrong becomes the first human to walk on the surface of the moon from the U.S. spacecraft Apollo 11. His famous quote “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” is immortalized in history.

September 12, 1970

Russian spacecraft Luna 16 is launched. It would become the first spacecraft to return soil samples from the moon.

January 31, 1971

Alan Shepard becomes the first man to hit a golf ball on the surface of the moon.

March 30, 1971

U.S. launches Mariner 9. It becomes the first spacecraft to survey Mars from orbit.

June 30, 1971

U.S. astronauts become the first to drive a rover on the surface of the moon.

November 13, 1971

Apollo 9 succeeds in becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet when it orbits Mars.

March 2, 1972

U.S. spacecraft Pioneer 10 is launched toward Jupiter with the intention of familiarizing potential extraterrestrial life with the human race. By 1973, it returns close-up images of Jupiter.

July 15, 1972

Pioneer 10 successfully travels through the asteroid belt.

April 5, 1973

Pioneer 11 is launched. It would eventually fly past Jupiter and Saturn, returning images of rings of Saturn previously unknown.

May 14, 1973

Skylab, the first United States space station, is launched. The 100-ton station would orbit the Earth 2,476 times over the 171 days it was manned. Astronauts aboard Skylab would perform ten spacewalks for more than 42 total hours.

June 24, 1974

Russia launches the first military space station.

July 17, 1975

American Apollo 18 and Russian Soyuz 19 dock, marking the first time spacecrafts from two different nations meet in space. Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts conduct the first international handshake from space.

September 3, 1976

U.S. spacecraft Viking 2 lands on the surface of Mars.

December 1978

U.S. spacecraft Pioneer reaches Venus and drops probes to map its surface.

September 1, 1979

Pioneer 11 takes the first up-close images of Saturn.

March 1, 1982

Russian spacecraft Venera 13 takes the first soil sample from Venus.

March 13, 1982

Russian cosmonauts become the first humans to inhabit a space station, staying in space for 211 days.

April 4, 1983

The space shuttle Challenger makes its first journey into space.

June 19, 1983

Sally Ride becomes the first American woman to travel in space.

August 30, 1983

Guion S. Bluford, Jr. becomes the first African American man to travel in space.

June 17, 1984

Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to walk in space.

August 30, 1984

The Space Shuttle Discovery makes its first voyage into space.

October 5, 1984

U.S. astronaut Katherine Sullivan becomes the first American woman to walk in space.

October 3, 1985

The space shuttle Atlantis makes its first journey into space.

January, 1986

U.S. spacecraft Voyager flies past Uranus.

January 28, 1986

U.S. space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after liftoff. All seven astronauts, including Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher to fly in space, are killed just 73 seconds after liftoff.

March, 1986

Spacecrafts from Japan, Russia, and western Europe fly by Halley’s Comet.

December, 1987

Russian cosmonaut Yuri V. Romanenko returns from the Russian space station Mir after spending a record 326 days in space.

May 4, 1989

U.S. space shuttle Atlantis is launched.

April 24, 1990

U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery is launched and deploys the Edwin P. Hubble Space Telescope.

August, 1990

U.S. spacecraft Magellan arrives at Venus for the purposes of taking radar images of its surface.

June 5, 1991

U.S. space shuttle Columbia is launched to conduct experiments on the effects of weightlessness on humans.

January 25, 1994

U.S. launches Clementine, a Department of Defense satellite to map lunar surface for ballistic missile defense system. The satellite fails five months later.

March 22, 1995

Russian cosmonaut Valeriy Polyakov returns to Earth after spending 483 aboard the space station Mir, setting a world record for time in space.

December 7, 1995

U.S. spacecraft Galileo arrives at Jupiter, sending a probe into its atmosphere and putting a satellite into orbit around the giant planet.

November 19, 1996

U.S. space shuttle Columbia lifts off on its 21st mission. The mission carries Story Musgrave, the oldest person to ever travel in space at the time (61 years old).

March 31, 1997

U.S. spacecraft Pioneer 10 is calculated at a distance of 6.7 billion miles from Earth, too far to be controlled by NASA. Moving at 28,000 miles per hour, it will reach Aldeberan in the constellation Taurus in about two million years.

September 12, 1997

Mars Global Surveyor arrives at Mars, taking over 2,000 images of the planet and finding evidence of streams, ponds, oceans, and an underground water drainage system.

October 15, 1997

The double probe Cassini/Huygens is launched toward Saturn. The ambitious 2.5 billion dollar project involves 17 nations and hundreds of American and European scientists. The planet is for the probes to arrive in Saturn in 2004 and take up-close pictures of the planet, perform experiments, and study the moon Titan.

January 7, 1998

NASA launches the Lunar Prospector probe to the moon for the purposes of mapping its surface, and to confirm that the moon’s poles contain ice. The mission would eventually discover at least 6.6 trillion tons of ice located at the poles.

February 14, 1998

Four global communication satellites are launched for the purposes of providing voice and data links for home and remote telephone systems.

April 17, 1998

U.S. space shuttle Columbia is launched on its 25th mission.

April 17, 1998

Japan launches its Nozomi probe to Mars, marking the first ever mission to Mars not directed by the United States or Russia.

October 29, 1998

At age 77, John Glenn becomes the oldest man to travel to space.

December 11, 1998

NASA launches the Mars Climate Orbiter for the purposes of studying weather on Mars. Flawed software causes the planet to orbit too close to Mars and is incinerated in its atmosphere.

November 19, 1999

China launches Shenzhou, its first unmanned test for their manned spacecraft.

January 3, 2000

U.S. spacecraft Galileo encounters the Jovian (Jupiter) moon Europa.

February 11, 2000

U.S. space shuttle Endeavor lifts off with radar and mapping technology. The mission produces a three dimensional model of 80 percent of Earth’s landmass.

February 14, 2000

NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) begins orbiting the asteroid Eros and delivers close-up images.

November 2, 2000

Astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikale dock at the International Space Station, becoming the first people to inhabit it, staying for several months.

February 14, 2001

NEAR makes landing on the asteroid Eros.

February 14, 2001

U.S. astronauts Thomas Jones and Robert Curbeam Jr.make the 100th spacewalk in U.S. space travel history. The spacewalk was made to install a part of the International Space Station.

March 23, 2001

Russian space station Mir is decommissioned. It breaks up in the atmosphere and falls to pieces in the Pacific Ocean.

April 28, 2001

Dennis Tito becomes the first civilian to pay for space travel. He pays Russia 20 million dollars for the trip.

October 16, 2001

U.S. spacecraft Galileo passes by the Jovian (Jupiter) moon Io.

October 24, 2001

NASA’s Mars Odyssey begins orbiting the red planet.

February 1, 2003

Space Shuttle Columbia, the U.S. space program’s oldest space shuttle, breaks up over Texas on its return trip to Florida during its 28th mission. All seven astronauts aboard are killed.

January 25, 2004

The rover Opportunity lands on Meridiani Planum of Mars. The rover returns incredible, detailed pictures of the Martian surface

June 21, 2004

The first non-government sponsored spacecraft is launched into space in a venture funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

July 1, 2004

The rover Cassini makes it to Saturn. It would spend four years taking detailed photographs of the ringed planet and its many moons.

January 14, 2005

The Huygens probe parachutes to the surface of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn. The probe returns detailed images of Titan’s surface, marking the first time in history a spacecraft had successfully landed on a moon other than Earth’s.

July 26, 2005

NASA resumes its space shuttle launches for the first time since the Columbia disaster of 2003 with the launch of Discovery.

July 21, 2011

Final space shuttle mission ends when Atlantis arrives as Kennedy Space Center.