The World's Space Program Timeline Thing. Link: http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/space-exploration-timeline/

Timeline created by rz18071
  • October 4, 1957: First Artificial Satellite

    October 4, 1957: First Artificial Satellite
    http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/space-exploration-timeline/The Soviet Union ushers in a new era—the space age—with the launch of Sputnik 1. A technological feat, the beach ball-size satellite weighs 184 pounds (84 kilograms) and takes 98 minutes to orbit Earth. The launch grabs the world's attention—and catches the U.S. off-guard. The first successful American satellite doesn't get off the ground until January 31, 1958.
  • November 3, 1957: First Animal in Orbit

    November 3, 1957: First Animal in Orbit
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    Having stunned the world with the first orbital space launch, Sputnik 1, less than a month before, the Soviet Union tries for a second coup by launching a dog named Laika on a one-way journey on a hastily completed follow-up mission, Sputnik 2. The dog survives the launch, but Soviet secrecy masks her ultimate fate for many
  • January 31, 1958: First Successful American Satellite

    January 31, 1958: First Successful American Satellite
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    Launched less than two months after Vanguard 1A, the first American attempt to compete with Sputnik, blows up on the launchpad, Explorer 1 (officially called Satellite 1958 Alpha) achieves an orbit extending an astonishing 1,560 miles (2,500 kilometers) above the Earth. This leads to the first great scientific discovery of
  • July 29, 1958: NASA Signed Into Law

    July 29, 1958: NASA Signed Into Law
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    Fearful that Soviet successes in space mean the U.S. is losing the Cold War, congressional leaders, including future President Lyndon B. Johnson, quickly write the National Aeronautics and Space Act. The act creates a civilian agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to assume many of the duties.
  • April 12, 1961: First Human in Space

    April 12, 1961: First Human in Space
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    After several unsuccessful (and apparently fatal) attempts at manned flight, the Soviet Union launches cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin on a 108-minute flight. Gagarin becomes the first to successfully orbit the globe, circling once at a peak altitude of about 200 miles (320 kilometers) above Earth. His spaceship, however.
  • February 20, 1962: First American in Orbit

    February 20, 1962: First American in Orbit
    In a mission that at one point looks like it might end in disaster, astronaut John H. Glenn orbits the Earth three times in a nearly five-hour flight. On the descent there appears to be a problem with his Mercury capsule's heat shield, raising the specter that the spacecraft might burn up. But the shield remains in place, and Glenn successfully splashes into the Atlantic. He carries a small National Geographic Society flag with him on the mission.
  • March 18, 1965: First Spacewalk

    March 18, 1965: First Spacewalk
    Knowing future missions will require astronauts to work outside their spaceships, Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov exits his Voskhod 2 capsule for a 12-minute spacewalk. His spacesuit, it is later revealed, balloons oddly from air pressure, and Leonov must vent air to counteract the problem. He also has extreme difficulty getting his tall body back into the small airlock. Then, the spacecraft lands hundreds of miles off course, and he and Commander Pavel I. Belyayev spend a full day in Russia's n
  • January 27, 1967: First U.S. Space Tragedy

    January 27, 1967: First U.S. Space Tragedy
    As the U.S. is gearing up for its three-man Apollo moon missions, a fire breaks out in a routine ground test. Astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee are killed, as the blaze, ignited by faulty wiring, spreads with incredible speed in the Apollo 1 module's 100-percent-oxygen atmosphere. The tragedy is the first in the U.S. manned space program, but the Soviet Union had a similar disaster in 1961, not publicly revealed. Future Apollo missions use a different, less flammable, atmospher
  • October 11, 1968: First Manned Apollo Mission

    October 11, 1968: First Manned Apollo Mission
    With time running out on President John F. Kennedy's pledge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, U.S. confidence is boosted by Apollo 7, the first Apollo mission to get astronauts off the ground. (Other missions had been tests.) In 163 circuits of the Earth in nearly 11 days, astronauts Walter Schirra, Jr., Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham practice docking maneuvers and verify that the spacecraft can hold up for a moon mission. They also carry a TV camera for the first live broad
  • December 21, 1968: First Manned Moon Orbital Launch

    December 21, 1968: First Manned Moon Orbital Launch
    n a six-day flight culminating with a televised Christmas Eve reading from the Book of Genesis, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders become the first to leave the gravitational influence of the Earth. In ten orbits of the moon they give an enormous boost to the nascent environmental movement by snapping stunning photos of the Earth—a blue-and-white marble rising above the stark lunar surface. The launch is the first manned test of the Saturn V rocket.
  • December 21, 1968: First Manned Moon Orbital Launch

    December 21, 1968: First Manned Moon Orbital Launch
    In a six-day flight culminating with a televised Christmas Eve reading from the Book of Genesis, Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, Jr., and William Anders become the first to leave the gravitational influence of the Earth. In ten orbits of the moon they give an enormous boost to the nascent environmental movement by snapping stunning photos of the Earth—a blue-and-white marble rising above the stark lunar surface. The launch is the first manned test of the Saturn V rocket.
  • July 20, 1969: First Manned Moon Landing

    July 20, 1969: First Manned Moon Landing
    The lunar module of Apollo 11, nicknamed the Eagle, touches down on the moon, with 30 seconds' worth of fuel to spare. Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., descend to the surface. "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind," Armstrong says. "Beautiful. Beautiful. Magnificent desolation," Aldrin adds. The astronauts collect 46 pounds (21 kilograms) of lunar rock material, deploy scientific instruments, and return to Earth on July 24, where they are immediately quaranti
  • April 13, 1970: Launch of Apollo 13

    April 13, 1970: Launch of Apollo 13
     
    Intended to make the third lunar landing, Apollo 13 is most of the way to the moon when an explosion in its service module oxygen tanks cripples it. Astronauts James Lovell, Jr., John Swigert, Jr., and Fred W. Haise, Jr., use the lunar module as a lifeboat, slingshot around the moon, and return safely to Earth. "Okay, Houston, we've had a problem here," Swigert famously says in announcing the explosion. Within nine months NASA launches Apollo 14 to successfully complete the mission intended fo
  • June 7, 1971: First Occupation of Space Station

    June 7, 1971: First Occupation of Space Station
    After an earlier attempt that failed due to a jammed hatch, three cosmonauts from the Soviet Union's Soyuz 11 mission successfully board the Salyut 1 space station. Their 24-day mission conducts scientific experiments and sets a new endurance record for space travel. Tragically, a failed valve causes the Soyuz craft to vent air on the return home, and on June 29, all three cosmonauts die. No more missions are sent to the Salyut station.
  • July 30, 1971: First Rover on the Moon

    July 30, 1971: First Rover on the Moon
    Apollo 15 carries an electric cart, like a stripped-down, foldable golf cart, to the moon. The rover, capable of carrying two astronauts plus supplies, greatly extends their exploration range. Astronauts David Scott and James Irwin are the first drivers, putting 17 miles (27 kilometers) on the moon buggy. Because of the risk of being stranded without air, the astronauts are not permitted to drive father than the "walk-back" distance from their lunar module.
  • May 14, 1973: First American Space Station Launched

    May 14, 1973: First American Space Station Launched
    Skylab is launched on what will prove to be a six-year mission. Three crews totaling nine astronauts occupy the station in 1973 and 1974, conducting astronomical experiments and making spacewalks to repair a damaged solar panel and rig a sunshade to keep the station from overheating. Skylab plunges to Earth on July 11, 1979, generating fear in people of being struck by falling debris. Nobody is hit, but one Australian town fines the U.S. $400 for littering.
  • July 17, 1975: First International Space Rendezvous

    July 17, 1975: First International Space Rendezvous
    U.S. and Russian astronauts practice détente in space. In a mission called the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (or Soyuz-Apollo Test Project, depending on point of view), crews from Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 meet in Earth orbit, shake hands on live TV, and spend two days together. On the return, failure to throw a switch causes the American capsule to fill with lung-searing thruster-propellant fumes, but the astronauts suffer no permanent harm. It is the last U.S. manned mission for six years.
  • July 20, 1976: First U.S. Mars Landing

    July 20, 1976: First U.S. Mars Landing
    Viking 1 soft-lands on Mars. Pictures show a stark, rocky landscape much like some Earthly deserts, and chemical tests designed to search for life show anomalies in the soil that have yet to be fully explained. The lander remains operational until late 1982, when transmissions and communications end. Meanwhile, the Viking 1 orbiter operates for two years, snapping photos of the surface, including the famous "Face on Mars," an odd-shaped hill that provides fodder for many tabloid headlines.
  • August-September, 1977: Voyagers 1 and 2 Launched

    August-September, 1977: Voyagers 1 and 2 Launched
    NASA launches two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, on a grand tour of the solar system. Thanks to a rare alignment of the planets, the spacecraft can slingshot from one world to another, gaining speed as they pass. Voyager 1 visits Jupiter, Saturn, and Saturn's moon Titan. Voyager 2 visits Uranus and Neptune. Thirty years later, nearing interstellar space, both continue to provide data, having traveled father than any other manmade objects. On each, a golden record album tells of humans, Ear
  • April 12, 1981: First Space Shuttle Launch

    April 12, 1981: First Space Shuttle Launch
    NASA debuts its manned cosmic commuter, the space shuttle, with the first-ever launch of Columbia. Commander John Young and pilot Robert Crippen spend two days in orbit around the Earth on the test flight and touch down, airplane-style, at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
  • November 11, 1982: First Operational Space Shuttle Mission

    November 11, 1982: First Operational Space Shuttle Mission
    After four test flights in 1981 and 1982, the first space shuttle, Columbia, carries a crew of four—the largest crew ever to be launched into space on a single vehicle—on its first true mission. In its five-day mission, the shuttle deploys two commercial satellites, another first.
  • June 18, 1983: First American Woman in Space

    June 18, 1983: First American Woman in Space
    Sally K. Ride lifts off on the space shuttle Challenger to become the first American woman in space. Although immensely popular in America, Ride is not the first woman in space. That honor went to Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova, who flew on a Soviet Vostok mission 20 years earlier. A physicist, Ride serves as a mission specialist on the first shuttle flight to carry a five-person crew. At one time a nationally ranked junior tennis player, Ride, at age 32, is the youngest American yet to reach
  • February 7, 1984: First Untethered Spacewalk

    February 7, 1984: First Untethered Spacewalk
    In the first test of NASA's new Manned Maneuvering Unit, a sort of rocket backpack designed to fit over the astronauts' normal spacesuits, astronaut Bruce McCandless exits the space shuttle Challenger without a safety line. In the course of putting the unit through its paces, he flies 320 feet (100 meters) away from the shuttle and returns safely.
  • January 28, 1986: Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion 

    January 28, 1986: Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion 
    In a disaster seen live on television, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after liftoff. All seven astronauts are killed, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. The fault is traced to a defective O-ring (a type of gasket) in a rocket booster. Cold weather and high wind shear also play a role. Contrary to popular impression, the shuttle does not blow up. Rather, it is ripped apart by aerodynamic forces. The astronauts probably survive until their cabin crashes into the sea.
  • February 20, 1986: Mir Space Station Launched

    February 20, 1986: Mir Space Station Launched
    The first section of the Russian Mir space station, called the core module, is launched on a Proton rocket. The core weighs an impressive 20 tons but comprises only a portion of the overall station, which will take ten more years to complete. The station is occupied in several intervals, the longest of which spans nearly a decade—a record of continuous occupation yet to be surpassed by any subsequent space station. The aging Mir is abandoned in August 1999 and de-orbited into the Pacific Ocean o
  • April 25, 1990: Hubble Space Telescope Deployed

    April 25, 1990: Hubble Space Telescope Deployed
    A day after launching, the space shuttle Discovery opens its cargo bay doors to deploy a unique cargo: the 12-ton Hubble Space Telescope. More than a single telescope, Hubble is an orbiting collection of instruments designed to view the universe free from interference from the Earth's atmosphere. Unfortunately, a flaw in the telescope's largest mirror blurs many images. The space shuttle Endeavour flies a service mission to remedy this in late 1993. Three subsequent service missions also upgrade
  • July 4, 1997: Pathfinder Probe Landing on Mars

    July 4, 1997: Pathfinder Probe Landing on Mars
    Descending by parachute and protected by inflated airbags, the Mars Pathfinder probe breaks through the thin Martian atmosphere, settles to the surface, and bounces at least 15 times before coming to rest. The airbags deflate and the first Mars rover, called Sojourner, descends a ramp to investigate its surroundings. Controlled by an Earth-based operator, the 2-foot-long (0.6-meter-long) rover must stay close to the lander. Designed mostly to test future rover plans, it can also do chemical test
  • October 29, 1998: John Glenn's Return to Space

    October 29, 1998: John Glenn's Return to Space
    Thirty-six years after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, former astronaut John Glenn boards the space shuttle Discovery for a triumphant return. Soon to retire from 24 years as a U.S. senator, Glenn, 77, is the oldest person ever to go into space. He passes the physicals with flying colors. Medical tests during and after his nine-day mission will test the effects of spaceflight on the elderly and offer potential clues to scientists studying the aging process.
  • February 1, 2003: Loss of Space Shuttle Columbia

    February 1, 2003: Loss of Space Shuttle Columbia
    Returning from its 28th mission, America's oldest space shuttle breaks up on reentry high over Texas. The cause proves to be damage to the heat shielding, incurred when a block of foam broke off the external fuel tank during lunch and hit the shuttle's left wing. There is no way the astronauts can escape their vehicle, which is moving about 12,500 miles (20,000 kilometers) an hour. All seven die. Shuttle missions are cancelled until 2005.
  • January 3, 2004: Spirit Rover Landing on Mars

    January 3, 2004: Spirit Rover Landing on Mars
    NASA's most complex robotic rover yet, christened Spirit, parachutes to the surface and bounces to an air-bag-cushioned halt in Gusev Crater. It is designed to last three months. Three years later, it continues to explore, aided by dust devils that scour sunlight-blocking dust from its solar panels. Early in the mission it makes a multimile beeline for the Columbia Hills, named in honor of the Columbia astronauts. As of mid-2007, Spirit has traveled nearly 4.5 miles (7.2 kilometers).
  • January 25, 2004: Opportunity Rover Landing on Mars

    January 25, 2004: Opportunity Rover Landing on Mars
    Three weeks after Spirit's successful landing, its twin, Opportunity, lands on the opposite side of the red planet. Setting out to explore a region called Meridiani Planum, it immediately finds signs that the area once had water. In the next four years it travels 7.1 miles (11.4 kilometers), investigating several craters and vastly outliving its design life.
  • June 21, 2004: First Manned Private Spaceflight

    June 21, 2004: First Manned Private Spaceflight
    A winged spacecraft called SpaceShipOne becomes the first privately financed vehicle to officially make it into space (defined as an altitude of 100 kilometers, or 62.1 miles). The spacecraft is piloted by Mike Melvill, built by the Scaled Composites corporation, and partially financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Less than four months later, SpaceShipOne flies two missions in a week, winning the coveted ten-million-dollar Ansari X Prize for a privately funded reusable spacecraft. This ti
  • July 1, 2004: Arrival of Cassini Spacecraft at Saturn

    July 1, 2004: Arrival of Cassini Spacecraft at Saturn
    After seven years in transit, including slingshot flybys of Venus, Earth, and Jupiter, the first probe to circle Saturn reaches its destination and breaks into orbit. The mission seeks multiple targets for the price of one: not only Saturn itself but also its rings and large family of moons. By tweaking the orbit, NASA engineers plan several years of close flybys of several moons, including extensive mapping of the giant moon Titan.
  • January 14, 2005: First Landing on Other World's Moon

    January 14, 2005: First Landing on Other World's Moon
    An adjunct of the Cassini mission, the European-built Huygens probe detaches and parachutes to the cloud-shrouded surface of Titan. Nobody is sure what's down there, but one possibility is an ocean of hydrocarbons. The probe is designed to float if that's what it encounters. Instead, it shows pictures of hills and what appear to be streambeds carved by liquid methane. It lands in a beachlike region of sand and rounded rocks and transmits pictures and other data for more than one hour before cont
  • July 4, 2005: First Impact With a Comet

    July 4, 2005: First Impact With a Comet
    A two-part probe called Deep Impact meets Comet Tempel 1. One piece of the probe, weighing 816 pounds (370 kilograms) smacks into the comet at a speed of 6.3 miles (10.3 kilometers) per second. The other "flyby" part passes by, observing the dust and gas released by the impact and peering at the subsurface layers of the comet, revealed in the impact crater. NASA considers diverting the surviving, flyby module to another comet, for future research.
  • July 26, 2005: First Space Launch After Columbia Disaster  

    July 26, 2005: First Space Launch After Columbia Disaster  
    Nearly two and a half years after the space shuttle Columbia breaks up on reentry, NASA is ready to try again. Discovery lifts off, but again, foam breaks off during launch. Careful inspection, including examination with a 50-foot (15-meter) remote-sensing boom, reveals that this time there is no major damage to the shuttle. If there had been, the crew is prepared to take refuge in the International Space Station. Instead, they land without incident. Fixing the foam problem (and delays due to H
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