Timeline of the Space Race

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This is a timeline of first achievements in spaceflight from the first intercontinental ballistic missile through the first multinational human-crewed mission—spanning the era of the Space Race.


Date Significance  USSR Mission  US Mission
August 21, 1957 First intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) R-7 Semyorka
October 4, 1957 First artificial satellite
First signals from space
Sputnik 1
November 3, 1957 First animal in orbit (dog Laika) Sputnik 2
January 31, 1958 First US satellite, detection of Van Allen radiation belts Explorer 1-ABMA
March 17, 1958 First solar powered satellite Vanguard 1-NRL
December 18, 1958 First communications satellite Project SCORE-ABMA
January 2, 1959 First rocket engine restart in Earth orbit
First lunar spacecraft
First detection of solar wind
Luna 1
January 4, 1959 First human-made object in heliocentric orbit Luna 1
February 17, 1959 First weather satellite Vanguard 2-NASA (NRL)1
February 28, 1959 First satellite in a polar orbit Discoverer 1-USAF/ARPA
June 25, 1959 First spy satellite to carry a camera (failed to achieve orbit) Discoverer 4-USAF/ARPA
August 7, 1959 First photograph of Earth from orbit Explorer 6-NASA
September 14, 1959 First impact into another celestial body (Moon) Luna 2
October 7, 1959 First photos of far side of the Moon Luna 3
April 1, 1960 First Imaging weather satellite TIROS-1-NASA
July 5, 1960 First successful US spy satellite (returned intelligence data) GRAB-1-NRL
August 11, 1960 First satellite recovered intact from orbit Discoverer 13-USAF/ARPA
August 12, 1960 First passive communications satellite Echo 1A-NASA
August 18, 1960 First successful recovery of film from an orbiting satellite
First aerial recovery of an object returning from Earth orbit
Discoverer 14-USAF/ARPA
August 19, 1960 First animals and plants returned alive from space Sputnik 5

1Project Vanguard transferred from the NRL to NASA immediately before launch.


Date Significance  USSR Mission  US Mission
February 12, 1961 First launch from Earth orbit of upper stage into a heliocentric orbit
First mid-course corrections
First spin-stabilisation
Venera 1
April 12, 1961 First human spaceflight (Yuri Gagarin)
First orbital flight of a manned vehicle
Vostok 1
May 5, 1961 First pilot-controlled space flight (Alan Shepard) Freedom 7
May 19, 1961 First planetary flyby (Venus) Venera 1
March 7, 1962 First orbital solar observatory OSO-1-NASA
July 10, 1962 First active communications satellite Telstar-AT&T
August 12, 1962
First ship-to-ship radio contact
Vostok 3 / Vostok 4
September 29, 1962 First artificial satellite constructed by a non-superpower  CanadaAlouette 1
December 14, 1962 First planetary flyby by a US mission (Venus) Mariner 2-NASA
June 16, 1963 First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova)
First civilian in space
Vostok 6
June 19, 1963 Five-day human spaceflight record Vostok 5
July 19, 1963 First reusable piloted spacecraft (X-15, suborbital) X-15 Flight 90-NASA
July 26, 1963 First geosynchronous satellite Syncom 2-NASA
December 5, 1963 First satellite navigation system NAVSAT-USN
August 19, 1964 First geostationary satellite Syncom 3-NASA
October 12, 1964 First multi-person crew (3) Voskhod 1
March 18, 1965 First extra-vehicular activity ("space walk") Voskhod 2
March 23, 1965 First piloted spacecraft orbit change Gemini 3-NASA
July 14, 1965 First Mars flyby Mariner 4-NASA
August 29, 1965 Eight-day human spaceflight record Gemini 5-NASA
December 15, 1965 First orbital rendezvous (station-keeping, no docking)2 Gemini 6A / Gemini 7-NASA
December 18, 1965 14-day human spaceflight record Gemini 7-NASA
February 3, 1966 First soft landing on another celestial body (Moon)
First photos from another celestial body
Luna 9
March 1, 1966 First impact into another planet (Venus) Venera 3
March 16, 1966 First spacecraft docking Gemini 8 / ATV-NASA
April 3, 1966 First artificial satellite to orbit another celestial body: the Moon Luna 10
September 12, 1966 First direct-ascent rendezvous on first orbit
Record highest apogee, 1,374 kilometers (854 mi), for piloted Earth orbit
Gemini 11/ATV-NASA
November 12–14, 1966 First 5.5 hr extra-vehicular activity
First demonstration of practical work capability
Gemini 12-NASA
October 30, 1967 First docking of two remote-controlled spacecraft Cosmos 186/ Cosmos 188
December 7, 1968 First orbital ultraviolet observatory OAO-2-NASA
December 21, 1968 First human-crewed spaceflight to, and orbit of, another celestial object: the Moon Apollo 8-NASA
January 16, 1969 First crew exchange in space Soyuz 4 /
Soyuz 5
July 20, 1969 First humans on the Moon
First space launch from another celestial body
Apollo 11-NASA
November 19, 1969 First precisely targeted piloted landing on the Moon (Surveyor 3 site) Apollo 12-NASA

2 The Soviet Union had attempted an earlier rendezvous on August 12, 1962. However, Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 only came within five kilometers of one another, and operated in different orbital planes. Pravda did not mention this information, but indicated that a rendezvous had taken place.


Date Significance  USSR Mission  US Mission
September 24, 1970 First robotic automatic sample return from another celestial body: the Moon Luna 16
November 23, 1970 First remote-controlled mobile vehicle on another celestial body: the Moon Lunokhod 1
December 12, 1970 First X-ray orbital observatory Uhuru (satellite)-NASA
December 15, 1970 First soft landing on another planet (Venus)
First signals from another planet
Venera 7
April 23, 1971 First human-crewed space station launched Salyut 1
June 29, 1971 First human-crewed orbital observatory (Orion 1)
23-day manned space record
Soyuz 11 / Salyut 1
July 31, 1971 First mobile vehicle lunar rover driven by humans on the Moon Apollo 15-NASA
November 14, 1971 First spacecraft to orbit another planet: Mars Mariner 9-NASA
November 27, 1971 First impact into Mars Mars 2
December 2, 1971 First soft Mars landing
First signals from Mars surface
Mars 3
March 3, 1972 First human-made object sent on escape trajectory away from the Sun Pioneer 10-NASA
July 15, 1972 First mission to enter the asteroid belt and leave inner solar system Pioneer 10-NASA
November 9, 1972 First commercially operated domestic satellite in geostationary orbit  CanadaAnik A1-Telesat
November 15, 1972 First orbital gamma ray observatory SAS-2-NASA
May 25, 1973 28-day human-crewed space record Skylab 1-NASA
July 28, 1973 56-day human-crewed space record Skylab 2-NASA
November 16, 1973 84-day human-crewed space record Skylab 3-NASA
December 3, 1973 First Jupiter flyby Pioneer 10-NASA
February 5, 1974 First planetary gravitational assist (Venus flyby) Mariner 10-NASA
March 29, 1974 First Mercury flyby Mariner 10-NASA
July 15, 1975 First multinational human-crewed mission Soyuz 19 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project

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