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Chronology of the Space Age

The Space Age began with the development of several technologies that culminated on October 4, 1957, with the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union. This was the world's first artificial satellite, orbiting the Earth in 98.1 minutes and weighting in at 83kg. The launch of Sputnik 1 ushered a new era of political, scientific and technological achievements that became known as the Space Age.

The Space Age was characterized by rapid development of new technology in a close race mainly between USA and the Soviet Union. Rapid advances were made in rocketry, materials science, computers and many other areas. Much of the technology originally developed for space applications has been spun off and found other uses.

The Space Age reached its peak with the Apollo program which captured the imagination of much of the world's population. The landing of Apollo 11 is an event watched by over 500 million people around the world and is widely recognized as one of the defining moments of the 20th century. Since then and with the end of the space race due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, public attention has largely moved to other areas.

During the 1990s funding for space related programs fell sharply as the Soviet Union disintegrated and NASA no longer had any direct competition. Also, public perception of the dangers and cost of space exploration in the USA was greatly affected by the Challenger disaster in 1986.

Since then participation in space launches have increasingly widened to more governments and commercial interests. Since the 1990s, the current period has more often been referred to as the Information Age rather than the Space Age, since space exploration and space-related technologies are no longer felt to be commonplace by significant portions of the public.

Shortened article from . Published under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

Below we have included some chronology tables from in order to give a detailled overview of the space exploration history.


Date Mission Achievements Country or International Organization Mission Name
1942 First rocket to reach 100km from the Earth's surface (boundary of space) Germany V2 rocket, military program
May 10, 1946 First space research flight (cosmic radiation experiments) United States captured and improved V2 rocket
May 22, 1946 First U.S.-designed rocket to reach edge of space (80 km) United States Wac Corporal
October 10, 1946 First pictures of earth from 100 km [1] [2] United States V2
1947 First animals in space (fruit flies)[3] [4] USA-ABMA V2
August 21, 1957 First intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) USSR R-7 Semyorka/SS-6 Sapwood


Date Mission Achievements Country or International Organization Mission Name
October 4, 1957 First artificial satellite
First signals from space
USSR Sputnik 1
November 3, 1957 First animal in orbit, the dog Laika USSR Sputnik 2
January 31, 1958 Confirmed the existence of the Van Allen belts USA-ABMA Explorer 1
March 17, 1958 First solar powered satellite NRL Vanguard 1
December 18, 1958 First communications satellite USA-ABMA Project SCORE
January 2, 1959 First firing of a rocket in Earth orbit
First reaching Earth escape velocity
First detection of solar wind
USSR Luna 1
January 4, 1959 First man-made object in heliocentric orbit USSR Luna 1
February 17, 1959 First weather satellite USA-NASA (NRL) Vanguard 2
February 28, 1959 First satellite in a Polar orbit USA-DARPA Discoverer 1
August 7, 1959 First photograph of Earth from orbit USA-NASA Explorer 6
September 13, 1959 First impact into another world (the Moon) USSR Luna 2
October 4, 1959 First photos of far side of the Moon USSR Luna 3
April 1, 1960 First Imaging weather satellite USA-NASA TIROS-1
July 5, 1960 First reconnaissance satellite USA-NRL GRAB-1
August 11, 1960 First satellite recovered intact from orbit USA-Air Force Discoverer 13
August 12, 1960 First passive communications satellite USA-NASA Echo 1A
August 18, 1960 First photo reconnaissance satellite USA-Air Force KH-1 9009
1961 First launch from orbit
First mid-course corrections
First spin-stabilisation
USSR Venera 1


Date Mission Success Country or International Organization Mission Name
April 12, 1961 First manned spaceflight (Yuri Gagarin)
First manned orbital flight
USSR Vostok 1
May 5, 1961 Second nation to achieve manned spaceflight USA-NASA Mercury-Redstone 3
March 7, 1962 First orbital solar observatory USA-NASA OSO-1
December 14, 1962 First planetary flyby (Venus closest approach 34,773 kilometers) USA-NASA Mariner 2
1963 First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova) USSR Vostok 6
July 19, 1963 First reusable manned spacecraft (suborbital) USA-NASA X-15 Flight 90
July 26, 1963 First geosynchronous communications satellite USA-NASA Syncom 2
December 5, 1963 First satellite navigation system US Navy NAVSAT
August 19, 1964 First geostationary communications satellite USA-NASA Syncom 3
October 12, 1964 First multi-man crew (three members) USSR Voskhod 1
March 18, 1965 First extra-vehicular activity USSR Voskhod 2
April 6, 1965 First commercial communications satellite Intelsat, Ltd. Intelsat 1
July 14, 1965 First Mars flyby (closest approach 9,846 kilometers) USA-NASA Mariner 4
December 15, 1965 First orbital rendezvous (parallel flight, no docking) USA-NASA Gemini 7
February 3, 1966 First soft landing on another world (the Moon)
First photos from another world
USSR Luna 9
March 1, 1966 First impact into another planet (Venus) USSR Venera 3
March 16, 1966 First orbital rendezvous (docking) USA-NASA Gemini 8 / Agena target vehicle
April 3, 1966 First artificial satellite around another world (the Moon) USSR Luna 10
June 2, 1966 soft landing on the Moon
photos from the Moon
USA-NASA Surveyor 1
April 23, 1967 First spaceflight casualty USSR Soyuz 1
October 30, 1967 First unmanned rendezvous with docking USSR Cosmos 186 / Cosmos 188
December 21, 1968 First human orbiting of another celestial body (Moon) USA-NASA Apollo 8
January 16, 1969 First manned docking and exchange of crew USSR Soyuz 4 / Soyuz 5
July 21, 1969 First human on the Moon and first space launch from a celestial body USA-NASA Apollo 11
November 19, 1969 First rendezvous on the surface of a celestial body USA-NASA Apollo 12 / Surveyor 3


Date Mission Success Country or International Organization Mission Name
September 24, 1970 First automatic sample return from the Moon USSR Luna 16
November 23, 1970 First lunar robotic rover USSR Lunokhod 1
December 12, 1970 First X-ray orbital observatory USA-NASA Uhuru (satellite)
December 15, 1970 First soft landing on another planet (Venus)
First signals from another planet
USSR Venera 7
April 23, 1971 First space station USSR Salyut 1
June, 1971 First Manned orbital observatory USSR Orion 1
November 14, 1971 First orbit around another planet (Mars) USA-NASA Mariner 9
November 27, 1971 First impact into Mars USSR Mars 2
December 2, 1971 First soft Mars landing
First signals from Mars surface
USSR Mars 3
March 3, 1972 First human made object sent on escape trajectory away from the Sun USA-NASA Pioneer 10
July 15, 1972 First mission to enter the asteroid belt and leave inner solar system USA-NASA Pioneer 10
December 3, 1973 First Jupiter flyby (at 130,000 km) USA-NASA Pioneer 10
February 5, 1974 Venus flyby at 5768 kilometers, first gravitational assist manoeuvre USA-NASA Mariner 10
March 29, 1974 First Mercury flyby at 703 kilometers USA-NASA Mariner 10
July 15, 1975 First multinational manned mission USSR USA-NASA Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
October 20, 1975 First orbit around Venus USSR Venera 9
October 22, 1975 First photos from the surface of another planet (Venus) USSR Venera 9
July 20, 1976 First photos and soil samples from the surface of Mars USA-NASA Viking Lander
January 26, 1978 First real time remotely operated ultraviolet orbital observatory USA-NASA ESA UK-SERC International Ultraviolet Explorer
March 2, 1978 First Non-American and non-Soviet in space (Vladimír Remek) USSR Czechoslovakia Soyuz 28
March 5, 1979 Jupiter flyby (closest approach 349,000 km) USA-NASA Voyager 1
September 1, 1979, First Saturn flyby at 21,000 km USA-NASA Pioneer 11
November 12, 1980 Saturn flyby (closest approach 124,000 kilometers) USA-NASA Voyager 1


Date Mission Success Country or International Organization Mission Name
April 12, 1981 First Reusable manned spacecraft (orbital) USA-NASA Columbia
March 1, 1982 First Venus soil samples and sound recording of another world USSR Venera 13
January 25, 1983 Infrared orbital observatory USA-NASA UK-SERC Netherlands-NIVR IRAS
March 23, 1983 Ultraviolet orbital observatory USSR France Astron
June 13, 1983 First spacecraft beyond the orbit of Neptune (first spacecraft to pass beyond all Solar System planets) USA-NASA Pioneer 10
July 25, 1984 First extra-vehicular activity by a woman USSR Salyut 7
January 24, 1986 First Uranus flyby (closest approach 81,500 kilometers) USA-NASA Voyager 2
February 19, 1986 First consistently inhabited long-term research space station USSR Mir
August 25, 1989 First Neptune flyby USA-NASA Voyager 2
December 1, 1989 Ultraviolet to gamma ray spectrum orbital observatory USSR France Denmark Bulgaria Granat
April 24, 1990 Optical orbital observatory USA-NASA ESA Hubble Space Telescope
December 2, 1990 First commercial manned-spaceflight USSR Japan Soyuz TM-11
October 21, 1991 First asteroid flyby (951 Gaspra closest approach 1,600 kilometers) USA-NASA Galileo
February 8, 1992 First polar orbit around the Sun USA-NASA ESA Ulysses
December 7, 1995 First orbit of Jupiter USA-NASA Galileo
December 7, 1995 First mission into the atmosphere of a gas giant (Jupiter) USA-NASA Galileo's atmospheric entry probe
July 7, 1998 First submarine-launched spacecraft Russia K-407
February 14, 2000 First orbiting of an asteroid (433 Eros) USA-NASA NEAR Shoemaker
February 12, 2001 First landing on an asteroid (433 Eros) USA-NASA NEAR Shoemaker
April 28, 2001 First space tourist Russia USA Soyuz TM-32
October 15, 2003 Third nation to achieve manned spaceflight China Shenzhou 5
January 4, 2004 Free ranging Mars rover USA-NASA Spirit rover
January 25, 2004 Free ranging Mars rover USA-NASA Opportunity rover
June 21, 2004 First private human spaceflight / spacecraft (suborbital) USA-MAV SpaceShipOne 15P
July 1, 2004 First orbit of Saturn USA-NASA ESA ASI Cassini–Huygens
January 14, 2005 First soft landing on Titan ESA USA-NASA ASI Cassini–Huygens

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