October 4, 1957 - Sputnik 1, the first man-made object to orbit the Earth, is launched by the Soviet Union., and stays in orbit until January 4, 1958. The space race begins!

November 3, 1957 - Sputnik 2, carrying the dog Laika spends 7 days in orbit. It is launched by the Soviet Union, and remains in orbit until April 13, 1958.


January 31, 1958 - Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite in orbit, lifts off at Cape Canaveral using a modified ABMA-JPL Jupiter-C rocket. It carries a scientific experiment of James A. Van Allen, and discovers the Earth's radiation belt.

March 5, 1958 - Explorer 2 is launched by a Jupiter-C rocket, and fails to reach orbit.

March 17, 1958 - Vanguard 1 satellite is launched into orbit, and continues to transmit for 3 years.

May 15, 1958 - Sputnik 3 is launched by the U.S.S.R.

October 1, 1958 - N.A.S.A. is founded, taking over existing National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics.

October 11, 1958 - Pioneer 1, U.S. - IGY space probe, launched to a height of 70,700 miles.


January 2, 1959 - Luna 1, first man-made satellite to orbit the sun, is launched by the U.S.S.R.

March 3, 1959 - Pioneer 4, fourth U.S.-IGY space probe was launched by a Juno II rocket, and achieved an earth-moon trajectory, passing within 37,000 miles of the moon. It then fell into a solar orbit, becoming the first U.S. sun orbiter.

September 12, 1959 - Luna 2 is launched, impacting on the moon on September 13 carrying a copy of the Soviet coat of arms, and becoming the first man-made object to hit the moon.

October 4, 1959 - Luna 3 translunar satellite is launched, orbiting the moon and photographing 70 percent of the far side of the moon.


April 1, 1960 - Tiros 1, the first successful weather satellite, is launched by the U.S.

August 18, 1960 - Discoverer XIV launches the first U.S. camera-equipped Corona spy satellite.


April 12, 1961 - Vostok 1 is launched by the U.S.S.R., carrying Cosmonaut Yuri A. Gargarin, the first man in space. He orbits the Earth once.

May 5, 1961 - Mercury Freedom 7 carries Alan B. Shepard,Jr.,the first U.S. Astronaut into space, in a suborbital flight.

August 6, 1961 - Vostok 2 is launched by the U.S.S.R., carrying Cosmonaut Gherman Titov, the first day-long Soviet space flight.


February 20, 1962 - Mercury Friendship 7 lifts off with John H. Glenn, Jr., the first American in orbit, and orbits the Earth three times.

May 24, 1962 - Mercury Aurora 7 is launched with M. Scott Carpenter, making three orbits.

July 10, 1962 - Telstar 1, U.S. satellite, beams the the first live transatlantic telecast.

December 14, 1962 - U.S. Mariner 2, the first successful planetary spacecraft, flies past Venus, and enters a solar orbit.


June 16, 1963 - Vostok 6 carries Soviet Cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova, the first woman in space and orbits the Earth 48 times.

June, 1963 - Martin Schmidt interprets the behavior of 3C 273 - the first known quasar.


July 31, 1964 - U.S. Ranger 7 relays the first close-range photographs of the Moon.


March 18, 1965 - The first space walk is made from Soviet Voskshod 2 by Cosmonaut Alexei A. Leonov. Duration is 12 minutes.

March 23, 1965 - First manned flight of the Gemini program, Gemini 3 carrying Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young made three orbits around the earth.

March 24, 1965 - Ranger 9 transmits high-quality images of the moon, many of which were shown live in the first television spectacular about the moon.

June 3, 1965 - Edward White II makes the first U.S. space walk from Gemini 4. The duration of the walk is 22 minutes.

July 14, 1965 - U.S. Mariner 4 returns the first close-range images about Mars.

November 16, 1965 - Soviet Venus 3 is launched, becoming the first craft to impact Venus on March 1, 1966.

December 4, 1965 - Gemini 7 is launched carrying Frank Borman and James A. Lovell, Jr., making 206 orbits around Earth and proving a trip to the Moon possible.

December 15, 1965 - American astronauts Walter Schirra, Jr. and Thomas Stafford in Gemini 6 make the first space rendezvous with Gemini 7.


February 3, 1966 - Soviet Luna 9 is the first spacecraft to soft-land on the moon.

March 1, 1966 - Soviet Venera 3 impacts on Venus, the first spacecraft to reach another planet. It fails to return data.

March, 1966 - Soviet Luna 10 is the first spacecraft to orbit the moon.

June 2, 1966 - Surveyor 1 is the first U.S. spacecraft to soft-land on the Moon.

August 14, 1966 - U.S. Lunar Orbiter 1 enters moon orbit, and takes the first picture of the Earth from the distance of the moon.


April 23, 1967 - Soviet Soyuz 1 is launched, carrying Vladimir M. Komarov. On April 24 it crashed, killing Komarov, the first space flight fatality.

October 18, 1967 - Venera 4 sends a descent capsule into the Venusian atmosphere, returning data about its composition.


September 15, 1968 - Soviet Zond 5 is launched, the first spacecraft to orbit the Moon and return.

October 11, 1968 - Apollo 7 is the first manned Apollo mission with Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and Walter Cunningham. It orbited the earth once.

December 21, 1968 - Apollo 8 is launched with Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr. and William A. Anders, the first Apollo to use the Saturn V rocket, and the first manned spacecraft to orbit the Moon, making 10 orbits on its 6-day mission.


January, 1969 - Soyuz 4 & 5 perform the first Soviet spaceship docking, transferring Cosmonauts between vehicles.

July 20, 1969 - Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. make the first manned soft landing on the Moon, and the first moonwalk, using Apollo 11.

July 31, 1969 - Mariner 6 returns high-resolution images of the Martian surface, concentrating on the equatorial region.

August 5, 1969 - Mariner 7 returns high-resolution images of the Martian surface, concentrating on the southern hemisphere.


April 11, 1970 - Apollo 13 is launched, suffering an explosion in its SM oxygen tanks. Its Moon landing is aborted, and the crew, James A. Lovell, Jr., John L. Swigert, Jr. and Fred W. Haise, Jr., return safely.

September 12, 1970 - Soviet Luna 16 is launched, conducting the first successful return of lunar soil samples by an automatic spacecraft.

November 17, 1970 - Luna 17 lands on the moon, with the first automatic robot, Lunokhod 1. Driven by a five-man team on earth, traveled over surface for 11 days.

December 15, 1970 - Soviet Venera 7 is the first probe to soft-land on Venus, transmitting for 23 minutes.


April 19, 1971 - Salyut 1 space station is launched by the U.S.S.R. It remains in orbit until May 28, 1973.

May 30, 1971 - The United States launches Mariner 9, which becomes the first spacecraft to survey Mars from orbit.

June 6, 1971 - Soyuz 11 carried Cosmonauts G.T. Dobrovolsky, V.N. Volkov, and V.I. Patsayev to Salyut 1, the first manned occupancy of an orbital station. However, on June 29, the Cosmonauts died upon Soyuz 11's reentry.

July 30, 1971 - Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin drive the first moon rover. The next year, Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt drives a similar rover.

November 13, 1971 - American Mariner 9 (launched May 30, 1971) is the first spacecraft to orbit another planet, Mars. Over the next year, it maps 100 percent of the Martian surface.


March 2, 1972 - Pioneer 10 is launched on an Atlas/Centaur/TE364-4 towards Jupiter by the U.S., designed to familiarize alien life with humans. It returns the first close-up images of Jupiter in 1973.

July 15, 1972 - Pioneer 10 becomes the first man-made object to travel through the asteroid belt.

December, 1972 - Scientists designate Cignus X-1 as the first probable black hole.


April 5, 1973 - Pioneer 11 is launched on an Atlas/Centaur/TE364-4, flying past Jupiter in 1974, and Saturn in 1979, where it discovers new rings.

May 14, 1973 - Skylab Workshop is launched by the U.S., and maintained by three crews.

May 25, 1973 - First crew to Skylab, Skylab 2, are launched, repairing damage incurred to Skylab during its launch.

November 3, 1973 - American Mariner 10 is launched, on the first dual-planet mission. Over the next year, it returned photographs of Venus and Mercury.


May 17, 1974 - NASA launches the first Synchronous Meteorological Satellite, SMS-1.

June 24, 1974 - Soviet Salyut 3, their first military space station, is launched. It remains in orbit until January 1975.

December 26, 1974 - Soviet Salyut 4, civilian space station, is launched. It remains in orbit until February 2, 1977.


July, 1975 - American Apollo (18) and Soviet Soyuz 19 dock, the first international spacecraft rendezvous.

October, 1975 - Soviet Venera 9 and 10 send the first pictures of the Venusian surface to Earth.


June 22, 1976 - Soviet military space station Salyut 5 is launched, remaining in orbit until August 8, 1977.

July 20, 1976 - Pictures of the Martian surface are taken by Viking 1, the first U.S. attempt to soft land a spacecraft on another planet.

September 3, 1976 - Viking 2 lands on Mars on the Plain of Utopia, where it discovered water frost.


August-September, 1977 - Voyagers 1 and 2 leave Earth to meet with Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980.

September 29, 1977 - Soviet Salyut 6 space station is launched. Its crews include members from Czechoslovakia, Poland, GDR, Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, Cuba, Mongolia, and Romania.


November, 1978 - The Einstein Observatory begins its 30-day mission.

December, 1978 - Two Pioneer spacecraft reach Venus. One drops four probes into the atmosphere, while the other maps the surface.


September 1, 1979 - Pioneer 11 reaches Saturn, flying to within 13,000 miles and taking the first close-up photographs.


April 12, 1981 - The first manned mission of the Space Transportation System (STS-1), Columbia , is launched.

June 19, 1981 - The European Space Agency launches its third Ariane rocket.

December 20, 1981 - The ESA launches a fourth Ariane rocket.


March 1, 1982 - Venera 13 lands on Venus, and provides the first Venusian soil analysis.

April 19, 1982 - Soviet Salyut 7 space station is launched. It is still currently in orbit.

May 13, 1982 - Soviet Cosmonauts Anatoly N. Berezovoi and Valentin V. Lebedev are launched in Soyuz-T 5 to rendezvous with Salyut 7, the first team to inhabit the space station. They return to Earth in Soyuz-T 7, setting a (then) duration record of 211 days.

August, 1982 - Voyager 2 completes its flyby of Saturn.

November 11, 1982 - The space shuttle Columbia's fifth mission, its first operational one, begins, deploying two satellites. Crew: Vance Brand, Robert Overmyer, Joseph Allen, and William Lenoir.


April 4, 1983 - The space shuttle Challenger lifts off for its first mission (STS-6) and has the first American space walk in nine years. Crew: Paul Weitz, Karol Bobko, Donald Peterson, and Story Musgrave.

June 19, 1983 - Sally K. Ride is the first U.S. woman to travel in space, on Challenger mission STS-7.

October 10, 1983 - Soviet Venera 15 returns the first high-resolution images of the Venus polar area, and compliled a thermal map of most of the northern hemisphere.

November 28, 1983 - The space shuttle Columbia carries the ESA Spacelab-1 into orbit (STS-9). Its crew includes Ulf Merbold, A German and first ESA member in space..

January-November, 1983 - The Infrared Astronomical Satellite finds new comets, asteroids, galaxies, and a dust ring around the star Vega that may be new planets.


February 3, 1984 - Bruce McCandless takes the first untethered space walk using MMU from the space shuttle Challenger (STS-41B).

August 30, 1984 - The third space shuttle, Discovery, lifts off on it's maiden voyage (STS-41D). Crew: Henry W. Hartsfield, Michael L. Coats, Richard Mullane, Steven Hawley, Judith A. Resnik, and Charles D. Walker.

October, 1984 - Salyut 7's cosmonauts L. D. Kizim, V. A. Solovyov, and O. Y. Atkov set a (then) 237-day record in space. They arrive at Salyut 7 in Soyuz-T 10 and depart in Soyuz-T 11

December, 1984 - Soviet/International Vega 1 & 2 are launched, dropping probes into Venus' atmosphere before continuing to Halley's Comet.


January 8, 1985 - The Sakigake probe is launched by Japan's Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, becoming the first interplanetary probe as it rendezvous with Halley's Comet.

April 29, 1985 - The Challenger carries the ESA Spacelab-3 into orbit (STS-51B).

July 2, 1985 - The European Space Agency launches the Giotto spacecraft from an Ariane rocket. It encounters Halley's Comet in 1986, and Comet P/Grigg-Skjellerup in 1992.

October 3, 1985 - The fourth space shuttle Atlantis takes off on its first mission (STS-51J). Crew: Karol J. Bobko, Ronald J. Grabe, Robert A. Stewart, David C. Hilmers, and William A. Pailes.

October 1985 - Spacelab D1, the first joint German/ESA mission, is flown. Its crew consists of two German DARA astronauts, and Danish Wubbo Ockels of the ESA.


January, 1986 - Voyager 2 flies past Uranus.

January 28, 1986 - The space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after liftoff of mission STS-51L.

February 20, 1986 - The core unit of Soviet space station Mir is launched.

March, 1986 - Spacecraft from the U.S.S.R, Japan, and Western Europe fly by Halley's Comet on it's 30th recorded appearance.

March, 1986 - Astronomers discover an invisible gravity source that splits a quasar's light.

April, 1986 - Astronomers find that our galaxy is smaller than they thought and the Sun is 23,000 light-years from it's center.


February 25, 1987 - Supernova 1987A blazes into view.

December 1987 - Cosmonaut Yuri V. Romanenko returns from space station Mir, having arrived there from Soyuz-TM 2, and sets a (then) space endurance record of 326 days.


May 4, 1989 - Space Shuttle Atlantis is launched (STS-30), deploying the spacecraft Magellan.

July 12, 1989 - Soviet/International Phobos 2 launched, which orbits Mars to study its surface, atmosphere and magnetic field.

October 18, 1989 - U.S. launches the Galileo spacecraft from Shuttle Atlantis flight STS-34, which took infrared images of Venus, and images of the asteroid Ida, before continuing to Jupiter.


April 5, 1990 - U.S. Pegasus rocket is deployed from a B-52 bomber, and launched the Pegsat satellite in the first demonstration of the Pegasus launch vehicle.

April 24, 1990 - Space Shuttle Discovery launches on STS-31, deploying the Edwin P. Hubble Space Telescope (HST) astronomical observatory.

August, 1990 - U.S. spacecraft Magellan arrives at Venus, where for the next year it took radar images of the surface.

October 6, 1990 - Space Shuttle Discovery launches the Ulysses spacecraft with two upper stages, on mission STS-41. Ulysses flies toward Jupiter, to be slingshot towards the sun, to obtain data from high solar latitudes.


June 5, 1991 - Shuttle Columbia carries the Spacelab SLS-1 into orbit, to conduct investigations into the effects of weightlessness on humans. (STS-40)


February 8, 1992 - Spacecraft Ulysses flies around Jupiter, on its way to the sun.

May 2, 1992 - Space Shuttle Endeavor lifts off on its first mission (STS-49), repairing the Intelsat VI satellite. Crew: Daniel C. Brandenstein, Kevin P. Chilton, Richard J. Hieb, Bruce E. Melnick, Pierre J. Thout, Kathryn C. Thornton, and Thomas D. Akers.


December 2, 1993 - Space Shuttle Endeavor launches on STS-61, making the first on-orbit service of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).


January 25, 1994 - U.S. launches Clementine, a new DOD satellite that performs a lunar mapping mission using advanced ballistic missile defense technologies. It suffers a malfunction on May 10, 1994, ending its mission.

February, 1994 - A Russian Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev, flies on board the U.S. space shuttle Discovery for the first time (STS-60).

Spetember 13, 1994 - Spacecraft Ulysses reaches a maximum Southern latitude of 80.2 degrees at the sun, proceeding towards the Northern latitudes, maintaining an orbital period of six years.

October 12, 1994 - Spacecraft Magellan enters the atmosphere of Venus, burning up following the completion of its mapping mission.

December 9, 1994 - Asteroid XM1 passes within 65,000 miles of Earth.


February 6, 1995 - Space shuttle Discovery maneuvers to within 37 feet of Russian space station Mir, in preparation for a shuttle-Mir docking (STS-63). This is the first shuttle mission to be flown by a female pilot.

March 22, 1995 - Cosmonaut Valeriy Polyakov returns to Earth after a 438-day mission aboard Russian space station Mir, setting a new space endurance record.

June 26, 1995 - Space Shuttle Atlantis rendezvous with Russian space station Mir during a ten-day mission on STS-71. Cosmonauts are transferred to and from Atlantis, and Astronaut Norman Thagard is returned from Mir, having arrived on Soyuz-TM 21, and making a new American space endurance record of 115 days.

September 1995 - Pioneer 11 ceases making scientific observations, its power source nearly depleted.

November 12, 1995 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on mission STS-74, making the second docking with Russian space station Mir. It delivers two solar arrays, and a docking module for future Shuttle dockings.

December 7, 1995 - The Galileo spacecraft arrives at Jupiter, performing an orbit while dropping a probe into the atmosphere, and putting a satellite into orbit, which will spend the next two years orbiting the planet.


February 8, 1996 - Thomas Reiter becomes the first European Space Agency astronaut to make two space walks (both from the Russian Mir space station). His previous space walk was on October 21, 1995, and lasted 5 hours 11 minutes.

February 17, 1996 - NASA launches the first in the Discovery series of spacecraft, the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft, aboard a Delta II-7925-8 rocket.

March 22, 1996 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on STS-76, performing the third docking with Space Station Mir. Astronaut Shannon Lucid was left on Mir, becoming the first female Astronaut to crew a Space Station.

September 26, 1996 - Space Shuttle Atlantis touches down after mission STS-79. It brings back Shannon Lucid, who becomes the longest US astronaut in space, and the longest female astronaut in space.



Sequence of Space Exploration