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Timeline of Space Exploration - 15 "Firsts" of Space History

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    Timeline of Space Exploration

  • Publication of Principia

    Publication of Principia
    The English astronomer Sir Isaac Newton publishes the Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. This three-volume work outlines Newton's three laws of motion as well as his law of universal gravitation and a derivation of Kepler's laws for the motion of the planets. The Principia is considered by many to be one of the most important scientific works ever written.
  • Carrington Super Flare

    Carrington Super Flare
    On Saturday, September 3, 1859, the Baltimore American and Commercial Advertiser reported, "Those who happened to be out late on Thursday night had an opportunity of witnessing another magnificent display of the auroral lights. The phenomenon was very similar to the display on Sunday night, though at times the light was, if possible, more brilliant, and the prismatic hues more varied and gorgeous.
  • First Liquid Fueled Rocket Launched

    First Liquid Fueled Rocket Launched
    U.S. rocket scientist Robert H. Goddard launches the first liquid fueled rocket from his Aunt Effie's farm in Auburn, Massachusetts. The 4-foot high rocket dubbed "Nell" reaches an altitude of 41 feet and a speed of about 60 miles per hour. The flight lasts only 2 1/2 seconds, but paves the way for the U.S. rocket program.
  • First U.S. High Altitude Flight

    First U.S. High Altitude Flight
    The U.S. military achieves its first high-altitude space flight using a rebuilt German V-2 rocket. Launched from the White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico, the flight reaches an altitude of 70 miles.
  • First Animals in Space

    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

    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.
  • NASA is Born

    NASA is Born
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is founded, taking over the responsibilities of the existing National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics.
  • First American in Space

    First American in Space
    Determined to keep up with the Russians, the U.S. launches astronaut Alan Shepard on a 15-minute suborbital flight. In a first not realized until years later, Shepard rides the capsule all the way back down, a feat made easier by the U.S. decision to conduct splashdowns in the Atlantic, rather than the difficult terrestrial landings made by the Russians. Unlike Gagarin, who was merely a passenger, Shepherd gets to pilot his Mercury capsule.
  • The Moon Rover

    The Moon Rover
    The moon rover was driven on the moon for the first time.
  • Satern began transmitting images

    Satern began transmitting images
    Voyager 1 reached Saturn and began transmitting images.
  • Maiden Voyage of Discovery

    Maiden Voyage of Discovery
    The third orbiter of the American Space Shuttle fleet, Discovery, lifts off for its maiden voyage into space. During mission STS-41D, the six-member crew lunches three communications satellites and tests a new solar panel array.
  • Launch of Hubble Space Telescope

    Launch of Hubble Space Telescope
    Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off for mission STS-31, carrying the Edwin P. Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The telescope is successfully deployed, but is found to contain a seriously flawed primary mirror resulting in fuzzy images. A future Space Shuttle mission will install a corrective which will solve the problem and make Hubble the most powerful telescope ever created.
  • First Detailed Study of an Asteroid

    First Detailed Study of an Asteroid
    The U.S. Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft arrives at the asteroid Eros. It begins a yearlong mission to study the gravity and composition of Eros in addition to sending back detailed images of the asteroid's surface. Eros is an S-class asteroid approximately 20 miles (33 km) and 8 miles (13 km) wide. The Valentine's Day arrival date is most appropriate for an asteroid named after the Greek god of love.
  • First Tourist in Space

    First Tourist in Space
    American businessman Dennis Tito becomes the first tourist to fly into space. His 20 million dollar offer is rejected by the United States, but is later welcomed by the Russian space program. A Soyuz space capsule delivers the space tourist and the Russian crew to the International Space Station, where Tito is given limited access to the station.
  • First Spacecraft to Orbit a Comet

    First Spacecraft to Orbit a Comet
    The European Space Agency's Rosetta space probe becomes the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a comet. After a 10-year, 4 billion-mile journey, Rosetta enters orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft sends back amazing high-resolution images of the comet's surface showing steep 490-foot (150-meter) cliffs and boulders the size of houses.