Space Exploration Timeline

  • First Liquid Fueled Rocket

    By 1926, Goddard had constructed and successfully tested the first rocket using liquid fuel. Indeed, the flight of Goddard’s rocket on March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Massachusetts, was as significant to history as that of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk.
  • Rocket Club

    The Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel) is formed as an association
    of amateur rocket enthusiasts in Germany. This group brings together many of the engineers who would eventually make important contributions to space flight.
  • Aggregate Rocket Series

    Work begins in Germany on the Aggregate series of rockets. Under the direction of German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, this program eventually leads to development of the V-2 rocket, one of Nazi Germany's most powerful weapons of destruction.
  • First Space Research Flight

    First space research flight or cosmic radiation expirements
  • First American-Designed Rocket Reaches Space

    The United States launches its first American-designed rocket. Known as the Wac Corporal, the rocket reaches the edge of space at an altitude of 50 miles after being launched from the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico.
  • First Animals in Space

    Fruit flies become the first animals in space as a V-2 rocket is launched from the White Sands Proving Ground. Inside are several vials containing fruit flies, rye seeds, and cotton seeds. The flight reaches an altitude of 60 miles, and the payload is later retrieved intact.
  • First Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

    The Soviet Union launches the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). Known as the R-7 Semyorka, it travels a total distance of 6000 km (3728 miles). A modified version of this missile would be used later to launch the world's first artificial satellite,
  • Sputnik 1

    The first man-made object to orbit the Earth, is launched by the U.S.S.R., and remains in orbit until January 4, 1958.
  • Sputnik 2

    Carrying the dog Laika for 7 days in orbit, is launched by the U.S.S.R., and remains in orbit until April 13, 1958.
  • First U.S Satellite in Orbit

    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.
  • NASA Signed Into Law

    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 (and 8,000 employees) of the pre-existing National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics. The new agency, which will come to symbolize the U.S. side of the space race, begins operatio
  • First Human in Space

    fter 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
  • U.S. Ranger 7

    Relays the first close-range photographs of the Moon.
  • 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.
  • Soviet Venus 3

    Soviet Venus 3 is launched, becoming the first craft to impact Venus on March 1, 1966.
  • First Artificial Satellite around the moon

    First artificial satellite around another world (the Moon) by the U.S.S.R
  • 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.
  • First Rendezvous

    First rendezvous on the surface of a celestial body
  • Venera 7

    Venus Lander
  • First X-ray orbital Obersvatory

    First X-ray orbital observatory by NASA
  • First Occupation of Space Station

    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.
  • First Rover on the Moon

    Apollo 15 carries an electric cart, like a stripped-down, foldable golf cart, to the moon.
  • Voyager 2

    Jupiter/Saturn/Uranus/Neptune Flyby
  • Vega 1

    Venus Lander and Balloon/Comet Halley Flyby
  • 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.
  • Space Shuttle Endeavour launches on STS-61

    Space Shuttle Endeavour launches on STS-61, making the first on-orbit service of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST).
  • Space Shuttle Discovery

    Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off for a 12-day mission to deploy and retrieve the Crista-Spas 2 satellite, which studied the Earth's middle atmosphere. This flight also tested various infra-red and ultraviolet instrumentation, and tested the Japanese robot-arm to be used for the International Space Station.
  • 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.
  • Arrival of Cassini Spacecraft at Saturn 

    fter 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.
  • 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.
  • 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