Arneson and Young's Space Race

  • First Satellite to Orbit Earth

    First Satellite to Orbit Earth
    The Soviet Union launches the first artificial satellite. Called Sputnik, a combination of words meaning "fellow-traveler of Earth," it weighs about 184 pounds. Sputnik circles the globe beeping radio signals, demonstrating that the Soviets have rockets that could send warheads anywhere on Earth. This event triggers the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
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    Top 25 Firsts

  • First Animal in Space

    First Animal in Space
    The Soviet Union launches a female dog into space on Sputnik II. Her name is Laika, which means "barker" in Russian. She lives for seven days, proving that animals (and presumably humans) can survive in space. There is no way to bring her back alive, so Laika is put to sleep. Sputnik II falls to Earth in April of the next year.
  • First Human in Space

    First Human in Space
    Riding on the Soviet Vostok 1, Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space. In case spaceflight caused Gagarin to behave strangely, the craft's controls were locked. There was a key onboard in a sealed envelope in case of emergency. Vostok 1 shook wildly during entry, but Gagarin did not use the key. Once he was low enough, he ejected and used a parachute.
  • First American in Space

    First American in Space
    The United States sends astronaut Alan Shepard on a 15-minute, 28-second sub-orbital flight onboard Freedom 7. Three weeks later, on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy vows to send men to the moon and back before the end of the decade.
  • First American to Orbit Earth

    John Glenn circles Earth three times in 4 hours and 56 minutes. In 1998, at age seventy-seven, John Glenn becomes the oldest person to fly in space, as part of the STS-95 space shuttle crew.
  • First Woman in Space

    First Woman in Space
    The Soviets launch Valentina Tereshkova on Vostok 6. She spends three days alone in space. Her spacecraft comes within three miles of Valeri Bykovsky in Vostok 5. This is first time two spacecraft pass this close together while in orbit.
  • First Space Walk

    Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov takes the first space walk, a ten-minute tethered excursion outside Voshkod 2. On June 3, 1965, Edward White II is the first American to walk in space on Gemini 4. He stays out 22 minutes.
  • First Deaths in Space

    First Deaths in Space
    During a test on the launchpad, a fire kills Apollo 1 astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. Then, on April 24, 1967, the Soviet craft Soyuz 2 crashes on re-entry, killing Vladimir Komarov — the first cosmonaut to die during flight.
  • First Moon Landing

    First Moon Landing
    During the flight of Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon. Buzz Aldrin is the second. Armstrong says, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Millions of people watch live on television.
  • First Space Rescue

    First Space Rescue
    An oxygen tank explodes aboard Apollo 13. With help from Mission Control, the crew — Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and John Swigert — return to Earth safely four days later.
  • First Space Station

    The Soviets launch Salyut 1, the first orbiting space station. Salyut 1's original crew die during re-entry on June 30, 1971. Georgi Bobroeolski, Vladislav Volkov, and Victor Patsayev had spent a record 23 days in space.
  • First American Space Station

    First American Space Station
    The first American space station, Skylab, is damaged during launch. The first of three crews arrive 11 days later for a 28-day stay. They make in-orbit repairs and set records for time spent in space.
  • First International Docking in Space

    First International Docking in Space
    American and Soviet spacecraft dock together in space in a show of peaceful cooperation during the Apollo-Soyuz mission.
  • First Mars Landing

    Viking 1, an unmanned scientific probe controlled by scientists on Earth, transmits the first pictures from the surface of Mars. Viking 2 arrived in September 1976.
  • First Reusable Space Vehicle

    The space shuttle Columbia takes John Young and Robert Crippen into space. It launches like a rocket and lands like an airplane. This is the first manned American space mission since the Apollo-Soyuz flight in July 1975.
  • First American Woman in Space

    First American Woman in Space
    Sally Ride is part of the crew for the seventh space shuttle flight, STS-7. The first African-American astronaut, Guion Bluford, follows on the next flight on August 30.
  • First Woman to Do a Space Walk

    Svetlana Savitskaya becomes the first woman to do a space walk. With her partner, Vladimir Dzhanibekov, she conducts welding experiments for over three hours outside the Soviet space station Salyut 7. Savitskaya had become the second woman to fly in space during a Soviet mission in 1982.
  • First Civilian Death

    First Civilian Death
    The space shuttle Challenger explodes, killing all seven crew members — including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe. The other crew members were Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Judy Resnik, Ron McNair, Ellison Onizuka, and Gregory Jarvis.
  • First Year in Space

    Musa Manarov and Vladimir Titov complete 366 days on the Russian space station, Mir. This record is broken on March 22, 1995, when cosmonaut Valery Poyakov returns to Earth after spending 437 days and 18 hours (1.19 years) in orbit.
  • First Space Telescope

    First Space Telescope
    The crew of space shuttle mission STS-31 deploy the Hubble Space Telescope. Soon thereafter, the Hubble's primary mirror is found to be damaged. In December 1993, the crew of space shuttle STS-61 corrects the problem during space walks watched live on television by millions of people. The Hubble Space Telescope then provides the first images of distant galaxies and planets outside our solar system.
  • First Spacecraft to Leave the Solar System

    Pioneer 10, launched on March 2, 1972, reaches a distance 50 times farther from the sun than Earth, becoming the first spacecraft to leave the solar system. Earlier in its mission, it had also become the first spacecraft to cross the asteroid belt and reach Jupiter. Currently, it is 6.5 billion miles away, heading toward the constellation Taurus.
  • First International Space Station (ISS) Mission

    First International Space Station (ISS) Mission
    Phase 1 of the International Space Station (ISS) program begins with the flight of Russian Sergei Krikalev on an American space shuttle during the STS-60 mission. In March of 1995, Dr. Norm Thagard becomes the first American to stay on Russian space station Mir. Phase 1 ends with the return of Andy Thomas from Mir in June 1998.
  • First American to Spend Six Months in Space

    First American to Spend Six Months in Space
    Shannon Lucid sets a record time in space — for both a woman and an American. After five shuttle flights and six months (189 days) on the Russian space station Mir, her total time in space is 223 days.
  • First Surface Travel on Another Planet

    First Surface Travel on Another Planet
    Arriving aboard the space probe Pathfinder, the robot Sojourner explores the surface of Mars. The six-wheeled, remote-controlled, solar-powered rover sends images of the planet’s surface and investigates chemical properties of Martian soil. During the Sojourner’s three months in action, the Pathfinder mission yielded tons of photographs and scientific findings.
  • First Space Studies on the Elderly

    First Space Studies on the Elderly
    At age 77, John Glenn flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery and became the oldest person to go into space. As an original member of NASA’s Mercury program, he entered the public-eye in 1921 when he became the first American to orbit the Earth. During his second flight, 35 years later, he contributed to research on weightlessness and the effects of space flight on the elderly.
  • First Non-Astronaut to Enter Space

    First Non-Astronaut to Enter Space
    Dennis Tito, a billionaire from California became the first paying passenger to enter outer space. Mr. Tito, age 60, has dreamt of going into space for over 40 years — and he paid $20 million to finally fulfill his dream. He now promotes the idea of ordinary people entering space.
  • China Sends First Man Into Space

    China Sends First Man Into Space
    China successfully sent its first astronaut, Yang Liwei, into space. This makes China the third country to send a human into space; only the United States and Soviet Union had successfully done so before. Yang Liwei remained in space for 21 hours, and was given a hero’s welcome when he landed safely.
  • First Spacecraft to Orbit Saturn

    First Spacecraft to Orbit Saturn
    Cassini-Huygens became the first spacecraft to go into orbit around Saturn. Later in the year the spacecraft flew within 800 miles of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Titan is also the only moon in our solar system with an atmosphere.