Timeline of space exploration

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This is for a timeline of space exploration including notable achievements and first accomplishments in humanity's physical exploration of outer space.

Prior to 1957[edit]

Date Event leading to space exploration Country Researcher(s)
1687 Publication of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica Flag of England.svg England Sir Isaac Newton
1813 First exposition of the rocket equation based on Newton's third law of motion: Treatise on the Motion of Rockets Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK William Moore
1865 From the Earth to the Moon published. Flag of France.svg France Jules Verne
1898 The War of the Worlds published. This inspired Robert Goddard to investigate rocketry. Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK H. G. Wells
1903 Inspired by the writings of Jules Verne, first serious work published that showed physical space exploration was theoretically possible: Исследование мировых пространств реактивными приборами (The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices)[1] Flag of Russia.svg Russia Konstantin Tsiolkovsky
1914 Goddard files for and is subsequently awarded U.S. patents on multistage and liquid-fueled rockets Flag of the United States.svg United States Robert H. Goddard
1919 Goddard's widely influential paper "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes" discussed solid- and liquid-fueled rocketry Flag of the United States.svg United States Robert H. Goddard
15 December 1923 Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen ("By Rocket into Planetary Space") self-published after its rejection as a doctoral thesis. Flag of Germany.svg Germany Hermann Oberth
1924 Society for Studies of Interplanetary Travel founded in Soviet Union Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union members include Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Friedrich Zander, Yuri Kondratyuk
16 March 1926 Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket Flag of the United States.svg United States Robert H. Goddard
1927 Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel) formed; it includes many top European rocket scientists. Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg Germany  
1927 "The Conquest of Interplanetary Space" discusses rocket mechanics and orbital effects including the gravitational slingshot Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union Yuri Kondratyuk
1928 Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums – der Raketen-Motor (The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor) discusses space travel and its potential uses for scientific experiments. Flag of Austria.svg Austria Herman Potočnik
1929 Oberth, with students including Wernher von Braun, launches his first liquid-fueled rocket Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg Germany Hermann Oberth
1931 First German military liquid-fueled rocket engines developed Flag of Germany (3-2 aspect ratio).svg Germany Walter Riedel
1933 Work begins on the Aggregate series of rockets which leads to the V-2 rocket. Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).svg Germany Wernher von Braun
17 August 1933 Group for the Study of Reactive Motion (GIRD) launches the first Soviet liquid-fueled rocket Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union Sergey Korolev (group leader), Friedrich Zander (designer)
1935 Graduate student Frank Malina under his professor Theodore von Kármán begins work on a sounding rocket Flag of the United States.svg United States Frank Malina
3 October 1942 First vehicle to cross the Kármán line (100 km/~62 mi above the Earth's surface) and thereby enter outer space[2] Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).svg Germany V-2 rocket, military program
10 May 1946 First space research flight (cosmic radiation experiments) Flag of the United States.svg United States captured and improved V-2 rocket
22 May 1946 First U.S.-designed rocket to reach edge of space (80 km (49 mi)) Flag of the United States.svg United States WAC Corporal
24 October 1946 First pictures of earth from 105 km (65 mi) [1][2] Flag of the United States.svg United States V-2
20 February 1947 First animals in space (fruit flies) [1][2] Flag of the United States.svg United States V-2

1957–1959[edit]

Date Mission Achievements Country/Organization Mission Name
21 August 1957 First intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR R-7 Semyorka/SS-6 Sapwood
4 October 1957 First artificial satellite
First signals from space
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Sputnik 1
3 November 1957 First animal in orbit, the dog Laika Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Sputnik 2
31 January 1958 Confirmed the existence of the Van Allen belts Flag of the United States.svg USA (ABMA) Explorer 1
2 January 1959 First firing of a rocket in Earth orbit
First reaching Earth escape velocity or Trans Lunar Injection
First detection of solar wind
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Luna 1
4 January 1959 First artificial satellite to reach the Moon vicinity and first artificial satellite in heliocentric orbit Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Luna 1
7 August 1959 First photograph of Earth from orbit Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Explorer 6
13 September 1959 First impact into another world (the Moon)
First delivery of national (USSR) pennants to a celestial body
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Luna 2
4 October 1959 First photos of far side of the Moon Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Luna 3

1960–1969[edit]

Date Mission Success Country/Organization Mission Name
19 August 1960 First plants and animals to return alive from Earth orbit Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Sputnik 5
31 January 1961 First Hominidae in space, first tasks performed in space; Ham (chimpanzee). Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) M-R 2
12 February 1961 First launch from Earth orbit of upper stage into a heliocentric orbit
First mid-course corrections
First spin-stabilisation
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Venera 1
12 April 1961 First human spaceflight–(Yuri Gagarin)
First human-crewed orbital flight
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Vostok 1
19 May 1961 First planetary flyby (within 100,000 km of Venus - no data returned) Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Venera 1
7 March 1962 First orbital solar observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) OSO-1
14 December 1962 First planetary flyby by USA (Venus closest approach 34,773 kilometers) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Mariner 2
16 June 1963 First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova) Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Vostok 6
19 July 1963 First reusable crewed spacecraft (suborbital) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) X-15 Flight 90
18 March 1965 First extra-vehicular activity Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Voskhod 2
14 July 1965 First Mars flyby (closest approach 9,846 kilometers) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Mariner 4
15 December 1965 First orbital rendezvous (parallel flight, no docking) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Gemini 6A/Gemini 7
3 February 1966 First soft landing on another world (the Moon)
First photos from another world
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Luna 9
1 March 1966 First impact into another planet (Venus) Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Venera 3
16 March 1966 First orbital docking between two spacecraft Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Gemini 8/Agena target vehicle
3 April 1966 First artificial satellite around another world (the Moon) Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Luna 10
2 June 1966 Soft landing on the Moon,
photos from the Moon
Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Surveyor 1
30 October 1967 First automated (crewless) docking Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Cosmos 186/Cosmos 188
7 December 1968 First orbital ultraviolet observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) OAO-2
21 December 1968 First piloted orbital mission of another celestial body (Moon),
first-ever Trans-Earth injection (25 December)
Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Apollo 8
21 July 1969 First human on the Moon and first space launch from a celestial body Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Apollo 11
19 November 1969 First rendezvous on the surface of a celestial body Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Apollo 12/Surveyor 3

1970–1980[edit]

Date Mission Success Country/Organization Mission Name
24 September 1970 First automatic sample return from the Moon Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Luna 16
23 November 1970 First lunar rover Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Lunokhod 1
12 December 1970 First X-ray orbital observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Uhuru (satellite)
15 December 1970 First soft landing on another planet (Venus)
First signals from another planet
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Venera 7
23 April 1971 First space station Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Salyut 1
June, 1971 First Manned orbital observatory Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Orion 1
14 November 1971 First to maintain orbit around another planet (Mars) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Mariner 9
27 November 1971 First impact into Mars Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Mars 2
2 December 1971 First soft Mars landing
First signals from Mars surface
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Mars 3
3 March 1972 First human made object sent on escape trajectory away from the Sun Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Pioneer 10
15 July 1972 First mission to enter the asteroid belt and leave inner solar system Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Pioneer 10
15 November 1972 First orbital gamma ray observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) SAS 2
3 December 1973 First Jupiter flyby (at 130,000 km) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Pioneer 10
5 February 1974 Venus flyby at 5768 kilometers, first gravitational assist manoeuvre Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Mariner 10
29 March 1974 First Mercury flyby at 703 kilometers Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Mariner 10
15 July 1975 First multinational manned mission Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
20 October 1975 First orbit around Venus Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Venera 9
22 October 1975 First photos from the surface of another planet (Venus) Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Venera 9
17 April 1976 Closest flyby of the Sun (43.432 million kilometers)
Maximum speed record among spacecraft (252,792 km/h)
Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Flag of Germany.svg West Germany-DFVLR Helios 2
20 July 1976 First photos and soil samples from the surface of Mars Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Viking Lander
26 January 1978 First real time remotely operated ultraviolet orbital observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Flag of Europe.svg ESA Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK-SERC International Ultraviolet Explorer
4 December 1978 First extended (multi-year) orbital exploration of Venus from 1978 to 1992 Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Pioneer Venus Orbiter
5 March 1979 Jupiter flyby (closest approach 349,000 km) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Voyager 1
1 September 1979 First Saturn flyby at 21,000 km Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Pioneer 11
12 November 1980 Saturn flyby (closest approach 124,000 kilometers) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Voyager 1

1981–present[edit]

Date Mission Success Country/Organization Mission Name
12 April 1981 First Reusable manned spacecraft (orbital) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) STS-1
1 March 1982 First Venus soil samples & sound recording of another world Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Venera 13
25 January 1983 First Infrared orbital observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Flag of the United Kingdom.svg UK-SERC Flag of the Netherlands.svg Netherlands-NIVR IRAS
23 March 1983 Ultraviolet orbital observatory Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Flag of France.svg France Astron
13 June 1983 First spacecraft beyond the orbit of Neptune (first spacecraft to pass beyond all Solar System planets) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Pioneer 10
7 February 1984 First untethered spacewalk, Bruce McCandless II Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) STS-41-B
24 January 1986 First Uranus flyby (closest approach 81,500 kilometers) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Voyager 2
19 February 1986 First consistently inhabited long-term research space station Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Mir
25 August 1989 First Neptune flyby (closest approach at 29,240 km) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Voyager 2
18 November 1989 First orbital cosmic microwave observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) COBE
1 December 1989 Ultraviolet to gamma ray spectrum orbital observatory Flag of the Soviet Union.svg USSR Flag of France.svg France Flag of Denmark.svg Denmark Flag of Bulgaria.svg Bulgaria Granat
14 February 1990 First photograph of the whole solar system[3] Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Voyager 1
24 April 1990 Optical orbital observatory Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Flag of Europe.svg ESA Hubble Space Telescope
21 October 1991 First asteroid flyby (951 Gaspra closest approach 1,600 kilometers) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Galileo
8 February 1992 First polar orbit around the Sun Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Flag of Europe.svg ESA Ulysses
22 March 1995 Record longest duration spaceflight (437.7 days) set by Valeri Polyakov Flag of Russia.svg Russia Mir
7 December 1995 First orbit of Jupiter Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Galileo
7 December 1995 First mission into the atmosphere of a gas giant (Jupiter) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Galileo's atmospheric entry probe
4 July 1997 First operational rover on another planet (Mars) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Mars Pathfinder
14 February 2000 First orbiting of an asteroid (433 Eros) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) NEAR Shoemaker
12 February 2001 First landing on an asteroid (433 Eros) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) NEAR Shoemaker
1 July 2004 First orbit of Saturn Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Flag of Europe.svg ESA Flag of Italy.svg ASI Cassini–Huygens
8 September 2004 First sample return beyond lunar orbit (solar wind) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Genesis
14 January 2005 First soft landing on Titan Flag of Europe.svg ESA Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Flag of Italy.svg ASI Cassini–Huygens
19 November 2005 First asteroid ascent (25143 Itokawa)
First interplanetary escape without undercarriage cutoff
Flag of Japan.svg Japan (JAXA) Hayabusa
15 January 2006 First sample return from comet (81P/Wild) Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Stardust
7 May 2006 Extended (multi-year) orbital exploration of Venus Flag of Europe.svg ESA Venus Express
6 March 2009 Kepler Mission is launched, first space telescope designated to search for Earth-like exoplanets[4] Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Kepler Mission
13 June 2010 First sample return from asteroid (25143 Itokawa) Flag of Japan.svg Japan (JAXA) Hayabusa
18 March 2011 First orbit of Mercury Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) MESSENGER
18 July 2011 Radio orbital observatory. Largest space observatory ever launched. Flag of Russia.svg Russia (Astro Space Center) RadioAstron
25 August 2012 First manmade probe in interstellar space. Flag of the United States.svg USA (NASA) Voyager 1

1Project Vanguard was transferred from the NRL to NASA in late 1958.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tsiolkovsky's Исследование мировых пространств реактивными приборами – The Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices (Russian paper)[dead link]
  2. ^ Dornberger, Walter (1954—English translation) [1952 V2—Der Schuss ins Weltall]. V-2. New York: Viking Press. pp. 17,256–7. 
  3. ^ See [1] under "Extended Mission"
  4. ^ NASA launches Kepler Mission: Search for Earth-like worlds

External links[edit]