Space Exploration

From Galileo to the space shuttle to the International Space Station, mankind has been exploring space for centuries.

The Space Race was a competition between the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) to conquer space. It began after the end of WW2 and utilised the technology that had been used heavily by the Germans during the conflict - rockets.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in America, employed Dr Wernher von Braun who had develop Germany's V2 rocket, while the USSR employed people who had worked for von Braun on the project.

There is still more information to be added to the following table of discoveries and explorations.

Date Event Country
1610 Galileo identified 4 of Jupiter's moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. Italy
1655 Christiaan Huygens discovered Titan, one of Saturn's moons. Holland
1671 - 1686 Giovanni Domenico Cassini discovers four more of Saturn's moons: Iepetus, Rhea, Tethys and Dione. Italian
13 March 1781 William Herschel discovers Uranus. UK
1787 William Herschel discovers a couple of Uranus' moons: Titania and Oberon. UK
1789 William Herschel discovers two more of Saturn's moons: Enceladus and Mimas. UK
1801 Ceres, originally designated a planet but now accepted as a dwarf planet, is discovered by Giuseppe Piazzi in the asteroid belt. Italy
1846 John Couch Adams discovers Neptune though, as he doesn't publish his discovery credit is often given to Johann Galle. UK
1846 William Lassell discovers Neptune's moon Triton. UK
1848 William Lassell, along with William Bond and George Bond, discovers Saturn's moon Hyperion. UK
24 October 1851 William Lassell discovers Ariel and Umbriel, two of Uranus' moons. UK
August 1877 Asaph Hall discovers Mars' two moons: Phobos and Deimos. USA
16 March 1926 Robert Goddard launches first successful liquid fuelled rocket.  USA
18 February 1930 Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovers Pluto - designating it a planet.  USA
3 October 1942 Germany successfully test launches the first ballistic missile - the V2 rocket. Germany
14 October 1947 Test pilot, Chuck Yaegher, breaks the sound barrier for the first time.  USA
11 June 1948 Albert, a rhesus monkey, suffocates while travelling up 63km on a V2 rocket. USA
14 June 1949 Albert II became the first monkey in space, but he died when he crash landed back to Earth. [More Alberts followed - 3, 4 and 5 died but number 6 survived]. USA
4 October 1957 First man made satellite - Sputnik - is launched into orbit. USSR
3 November 1957 Dog - Laika - is launched into orbit on the Sputnik II. USSR
31 January 1958 Explorer 1 satellite successfully launched - it is the first satellite to have on board telemetry. USA
2 January 1959 Luna 1 is launched. This becomes the first unmanned space craft to reach the vicinity of the moon. USSR
28 May 1959  Able (a rhesus monkey) and Baker (a squirrrel monkey) are launched into space and are weightless for 9 minutes before returning to Earth. USA
7 August 1959 Explorer 6 launches and provides first images of Earth from Space. USA
12 September 1959 Luna 2 is launched. This becomes the first unmanned spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon. USSR
1959 - 1963 Project Mercury is used to determine if a man can survive in space. USA
1960 - 1963 The Vostok Space Programme is initiated. Its aim is to get a man into space. USSR
24 October 1960 Disastrous accident while trying to launch Mars probe kills 126 people. USSR
12 February 1961 The probe Venera is launched. She's supposed to go to Venus but stops responding after a week. USSR
12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man to orbit the Earth in Vostok 1. His flight lasts less than 2 hours. USSR
5 May 1961 Alan Shepherd becomes the first American in space and the first man to return to Earth with his ship, Freedom 7. USA
25 May 1961 President Kennedy announces he wants an American to get to the moon before the end of the decade. USA
1961 - 1975 Project Apollo is the third of America's human space flight programmes. Its mission becomes to realise Kennedy's dream. USA
November 1961 Chimpanzee, Enos, orbits the Earth twice and returns safely to Earth. USA
20 February 1962 John Glenn becomes the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth on board Mercury 6. USA
10 July 1962 The Telstar 1  satellite is launched which allows television signals to cross the Atlantic. USA
28 July 1962 Spy satellite, Cosmos 7 - is launched. USSR
27 August 1962 Mariner 2 is launched. It performs the first successful interplanetary flyby when it passes Venus. USA
29 September 1962 Canada's satellite Alouette 1 is launched into space. The first country to do so that isn't America or Russia. Canada
16 June 1963 Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space on board Vostok 6. USSR
1964 - 1966 Project Gemini works towards reaching the moon. Mercury rockets were designed to carry 2 astronauts, not just one. USA
1964 - 1966 The Vosksod Programme replaces the Voskod Programme. USSR
18 March 1965 The first ever space walk is carried out by Alexei Leonov outside Voskhod 2. USSR
23 March 1965 Gus Grissom becomes the first person to fly in space twice. This time he's on Gemini 3. USA
3 June 1965 Ed White completes the first American space walk outside Gemini 4. USA
14 July 1965 Mariner 4 is the first unmanned space craft to fly past Mars. USA
26 November 1965 France launches its satellite - Astérix - into space. France
3 Feb 1966 Luna 9 lands safely on the Moon - there is noone on board. USSR
1 March 1966 Venera 3 lands on Venus, but communications fail. USSR
3 April 1966 Luna 10 probe enters into an orbit with the Moon, becoming the first spacecraft to do so. USSR
2 June 1966 Surveyor 1 becomes the first American lunar lander to land safely on the Moon. USA
27 January 1967 Apollo 1 catches fire during a test, killing all of the astronauts on board. USA
April 23 1967 Soyuz 1 is launched.Cosmonaut Vladimir Komorov is killed when it crash lands because the parachute fails to open. USSR
11 October 1968 Apollo 7 becomes the first manned Apollo mission. It is the first time TV has broadcast humans live from space. USA
21 December 1968 Apollo 8 becomes the first manned capsule to orbit the Moon. USA
22 May 1969 Apollo 10's lunar module 'Snoopy', comes within 8.6 miles of the Moon's surface. USA
July 16 1969 Apollo 11 is launched with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on board. Destination the moon. USA
July 20/21 1969 Apollo 11 lands on the moon and Armstrong and Aldrin become the first men to step on the moon. [20 July USA time, 21 July UK time] USA
11 February 1970 Japan launches its first satellite into orbit. Japan
13 April 1970 Apollo 13 suffers an explosion. Their mission to the Moon is abandoned as the priority becomes saving the astronauts on board. USA
24 April 1970 China launches its first satellite, becoming the fifth country capable of doing so. China
12 September 1970 The automated, Luna 16, collects samples from the Moon. USSR
19 April 1971 A Proton rocket launches the first Space Station into Space - Salyut 1. USSR
6 June 1971 Cosmonauts aboard Soyuz 11 are killed during re-entry after successfully docking with the Space station. USSR
28 October 1971 The UK launches its Prospero satellite, becoming the sixth nation capable of launching its own satellites. UK
13 November 1971 Mariner 9 becomes the first spacecraft to orbit Mars. USA
5 January 1972 President Nixon announces that America will develop a reusable spacecraft - the shuttle. USA
3 March 1972 Piuoneer 10 is launched - this will become the first spacecraft to leave the solar system. USA
19 December 1972 Apollo 17 - the last mission to the Moon - returns to Earth. USA
14 May 1973 Skylab - America's first Space station - is launched. USA
29 March 1974 Mariner 10 becomes the first spacecraft to fly by Mercury. USA
20 July 1976 Viking 1 lands on Mars - making it the first successful Mars lander. USA
20 August 1977 Voyager 2 is launched - destination Uranus and Neptune. USA
5 September 1977 Voyager 1 is launched - destination Jupiter and Saturn. USA
22 February 1978 First GPS satellite is launched. USA
11 July 1979 Skylab crashes to Earth in Australia. USA
1 September 1979 Pioneer 11 becomes the first spacecraft to fly past Saturn. USA
12 April 1981 The very first space shuttle mission as Columbia takes off. USA
18 June 1983 Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space/ USA
24  January 1986 Voyager 2 completes the first and only flyby of Uranus. USA
28 January 1986 Space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch. USA
20 February 1986 The Mir space station is launched. USSR

Other Timelines:

National Geographic here

Space Kids here

An article from here

The Royal Air Force Museum information is here


25 Facts about the 'Space Race' - the 'race' to take control of space between the Russians and the Americans. Even though the Russians got into Space first the Americans were the first to reach the moon.

History of Man's Space Travel - includes information about Space Shuttles and how space craft are built.