A Timeline of Space Travel History

On June 14, 1949, Albert II, a Rhesus monkey, became the first monkey to go to space in a specially adapted US V2 rocket. Although many dream of traveling to space, only a few ever make it. Over time, countries and private companies have attempted to find ways to reach the stars, even uniting countries that used to be at odds with each other. This is a timeline of important moments in space travel history, dating back to the 1940s.

1942

In 1942, the German V2 rocket, created by Wernher Von Braun, was the first to reach the boundary of space, which is 100km (62 miles) from the Earth’s surface. Braun went on to work with NASA on the rockets that went to the moon.

1947

In 1947, fruit flies were sent to space to study the effects of space travel on animals. They traveled with a supply of corn to eat during the flight.

1949

On June 14, 1949, Albert II became the first primate to travel to space, flying 83 miles from Earth in a specially adapted US V2 rocket.

1957

On October 4, 1957, Russia launched the first space satellite called Sputnik 1, which was the first satellite in orbit around the Earth. In November of the same year, Laika, a Russian dog, became the first animal to orbit the Earth, traveling in Sputnik 2.

1959

In 1959, Russia won the race to get a craft to the moon when space-probe Luna 2 crash-landed into the moon. Ten years later, the first human would visit the surface of the moon.

1961

On April 12, 1961, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space, completing one orbit of the Earth while traveling in Vostok 1. He had to eject and use a parachute to land as the craft was designed to crash land.

1962

John Glenn became the first US man to orbit the Earth aboard the Friendship 7, also known as the Mercury-Atlas 6.

1963

Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first woman in space. After her mission, a crater on the far side of the moon was named after her.

1965

NASA successfully conducted the first Mars flyby with their Mariner 4 craft, shortly after sending men to the moon.

1966

In 1963, John F. Kennedy promised that by 1970, the US would have put men on the moon. NASA sent a robot spaceship called Surveyor 1 to ensure a safe landing before sending humans to the moon.

In 1966, Surveyor 1 landed on the moon and sent back photographs that helped scientists plan future manned missions. The Apollo 11 mission in 1969 was the first to successfully land men on the moon, with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking that “one small step.” The Lunar Rover was first used in 1971 during the fourth, fifth, and sixth Apollo missions. The Voyager 1 probe was launched in 1977 and became the most distant human-made object in space in 1998. The Space Shuttle, designed for reuse, was first launched in 1981 and could be used up to 100 times. The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed into orbit in 1990 by the shuttle Discovery. The Challenger disaster in 1986 resulted in grounded shuttles for almost three years. The MIR space station was constructed in the same year and was consistently inhabited for 10 years until its destruction on its descent to Earth in 2001. The ISS, designed for research and exploration, began construction in 1998 and was completed in 2010.

Helen Sharman, who previously worked for Mars Bar, won a competition in 1989 to become the first British astronaut in space. Following 18 months of challenging training, she joined a Russian mission to the MIR space station. In 1995, the US and Russia began working together in space, which resulted in the US shuttle Atlantis docking at the Russian MIR space station. Two years later, the first US rover, Sojourner, explored the geology of Mars. In 2000, the International Space Station (ISS) became inhabited by the first permanent crew, who remain there to this day. In 2001, US millionaire Dennis Tito became the first space tourist to ride in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, spending one week in orbit and visiting the ISS. This marked the beginning of a hope for space travel to become a normal venture for everyone. In 2004, the first privately funded manned space flight occurred with SpaceShipOne, and Virgin Galactic began offering private tourist flights into space. The European Space Agency launched their Rosetta probe this year, aiming to reach Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. In 2008, SpaceX became the first private company to launch a privately funded liquid-fueled rocket into orbit, and the Falcon 1 rocket was used to launch their Dragon capsule to supply the ISS. In 2011, the US Messenger mission successfully orbited Mercury, and Russia launched the largest space telescope ever built, Spekt-R. In 2012, a major moment for commercial space travel occurred when SpaceX launched another Dragon C2+ to deliver supplies to the ISS. NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars, and Voyager 1 became the first man-made spacecraft to cross into interstellar space. In 2014, the Rosetta probe finally reached Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, and the Philae lander made a successful soft landing on the comet’s surface.

The harpoons that were designed to attach to the comet were unsuccessful, causing the lander to bounce twice before finally landing successfully.

2015

In March of 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around Ceres, a dwarf planet that is the largest object located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

Ceres measures 590 miles (950 km) in diameter and accounts for one quarter of the mass of the asteroid belt.

Later on, in July, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft arrived at Pluto after traveling for 9 years and 4.6 billion miles.

During its closest approach, it passed only 7,750 miles from the surface and captured high-resolution photos of Pluto and Charon, its largest moon.

It was discovered that Pluto is about 50 miles larger than previously thought.

2020

On July 30, 2020, NASA launched their Mars Rover, which is the largest of the four missions to Mars in 2020.

This mission plans to be the most productive, with state-of-the-art technology and engineering that is capable of exploring the Martian land like never before.

The Mars Rover’s mission is to explore any signs of habitable conditions in the past and present, among other things, to determine if the red planet has ever accommodated extraterrestrial life.

Space travel has mesmerized many people from a young age, including myself, and as this list shows, there is always something new to discover.

We have only scratched the surface, and yet every year we learn or launch something new, with the dream of reaching the unknown parts of the universe.

The aim is always to travel to the furthest edge that man can reach, to uncover hidden secrets, find life, or anything that is interesting and bewildering, driving some of the brightest minds in the world every day.

FAQ

What was the first successful space mission?

The first successful space mission was launched by the Soviet Union on April 12, 1961. The spacecraft, Vostok 1, was piloted by Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human to travel into space. The mission lasted just over an hour and Gagarin orbited the Earth once before returning safely to the ground.

When was the first man on the moon?

The first man on the moon was Neil Armstrong, who stepped onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Armstrong famously declared, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” The Apollo 11 mission was a major achievement for the United States, as it was the first time humans had set foot on another celestial body.

What was the first privately-funded space mission?

The first privately-funded space mission was launched by SpaceShipOne, a suborbital spaceplane designed by Burt Rutan. On June 21, 2004, SpaceShipOne completed its first successful flight into space, reaching an altitude of 100 kilometers. The mission was funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who had invested millions of dollars in the project. The success of SpaceShipOne paved the way for other privately-funded space ventures, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

When was the International Space Station first launched?

The International Space Station (ISS) was first launched on November 20, 1998, by a collaboration of space agencies from the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. The ISS is the largest human-made object in space and has been continuously occupied by astronauts since November 2000. The ISS serves as a research laboratory for studying the effects of long-term space travel on humans and conducting experiments in a microgravity environment.

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