Timeline of the Space Race

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This is a timeline of achievements in Soviet and United States spaceflight, spanning the Cold War era of nationalistic competition known as the Space Race.
On 29 July 1955, the United States announced its intention to launch an artificial satellite[1] during the International Geophysical Year (1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958). Four days later, the Soviet Union announced its intention to do the same and was the first to achieve this goal on 4 October 1957, marking the start of the space race.
After the first multinational crewed mission in July 1975, the competition continued to exist, but transitioned in intensity from a state of intense competition to one of cooperation by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War on 26 December 1991.


First artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 (replica).
First photograph of far side of the Moon, Luna 3.
Date Event  Soviet Union Mission  US Mission
1957 August 21 First intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); fully operational September 1957 R-7 Semyorka
1957 October 4 First artificial satellite
First signals from space
Sputnik 1
1957 November 3 First mammal (the dog Laika) in orbit around Earth. Sputnik 2
1958 March 17 First solar-powered satellite Vanguard 1
1959 January 2 First lunar spacecraft (fly-by)
First rocket engine restart in Earth orbit
First spacecraft to leave Earth's orbit
First spacecraft on an escape trajectory from Earth
Luna 1
1959 January 4 First human-made object in heliocentric orbit Luna 1
1959 February 28 First satellite in a polar orbit Discoverer 1
1959 August 7 First photograph of Earth from orbit Explorer 6
1959 September 14 First hard landing on another celestial body (Moon) Luna 2
1959 October 7 First three-axis stabilised spacecraft
First photos of far side of the Moon covering 70% of the surface invisible from Earth
First automated on board development of photographic film and conversion to radio signals
First gravity assist ('sling shot'), returning the space craft to the Earth to retrieve the photos
Luna 3
1960 August 11 First satellite recovered intact from orbit Discoverer 13
1960 August 18 First spy photography from space
First aerial recovery of an object (the film) returning from Earth orbit
Discoverer 14
1960 August 19 First animals and plants returned alive from space (Belka and Strelka) Sputnik 5


First human in space, Yuri Gagarin.

First humans on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (behind camera).
Date Event  Soviet Union Mission  US Mission
1961 January 31 First primate Ham (chimpanzee) in Space Mercury-Redstone 2
1961 February 12 First launch from Earth orbit of upper stage into a heliocentric orbit
First mid-course corrections
First spin-stabilisation
Venera 1
1961 April 12 First human spaceflight (Yuri Gagarin)
First orbital flight of a manned vehicle
Vostok 1
1961 May 5 First pilot-controlled space flight (Alan Shepard) Freedom 7
1961 May 19 First planetary flyby (Venus) Venera 1
1961 August 6 First crewed mission lasting a full day (Gherman Titov). Vostok 2
1962 August 12 First dual crewed spaceflight (Andriyan Nikolayev and Pavel Popovich)
First spacecraft-to-spacecraft radio contact
First simultaneous flight of crewed spacecraft
Vostok 3 / Vostok 4
1963 June 16 First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova)
First civilian in space
Vostok 6
1963 July 19 First reusable piloted spacecraft and the first spaceplane (suborbital) X-15 Flight 90
1963 July 26 First geosynchronous satellite Syncom 2
1964 August 19 First geostationary satellite Syncom 3
1965 March 18 First extra-vehicular activity ("space walk") Voskhod 2
1965 March 23 First piloted spacecraft orbit change Gemini 3
1965 July 14 First Mars flyby Mariner 4
1965 December 15 First orbital rendezvous (station-keeping, no docking) Gemini 6A / Gemini 7
1966 February 3 First soft landing on another celestial body (Moon)
First photos from another celestial body
Luna 9
1966 March 1 First hard landing on another planet (Venus) Venera 3
1966 March 16 First spacecraft docking Gemini 8 / ATV
1966 April 3 First artificial satellite to orbit another celestial body: the Moon Luna 10
1966 September 12 First direct-ascent rendezvous on first orbit
Record highest apogee, 1,374 kilometers (854 mi), for piloted Earth orbit
Gemini 11 / ATV
1967 October 30 First docking of two remote-controlled spacecraft Cosmos 186 / Cosmos 188
1968 September 14-21 First terrestrial life to leave Earth orbit, to travel to and circle the Moon, and the first Moon mission with lifeforms to return safely to Earth Zond 5
1968 December 21 First human-crewed spaceflight to, and orbit of, another celestial object: the Moon
First human spaceflight to enter the gravitational influence of another celestial body
Apollo 8
1969 January 16 First crew exchange in space

First docking of two manned spacecraft

Soyuz 4 /

Soyuz 5

1969 July 20 First humans on the Moon
First space launch from another celestial body
Apollo 11
1969 November 19 First precisely targeted piloted landing on the Moon (Surveyor 3 site) Apollo 12


First lunar rover, Lunokhod 1.

First space craft on an escape trajectory away from the Sun, Pioneer 10.
First photograph taken of and from the surface of Venus, Venera 9.
Date Event  Soviet Union Mission  US Mission
1970 September 24 First robotic automatic sample return from another celestial body: the Moon Luna 16
1970 November 23 First lunar rover (remote-controlled) and first rover on another celestial body (the Moon) Lunokhod 1
1970 December 15 First soft landing on another planet (Venus)
First signals from another planet
Venera 7
1971 April 19 First human-crewed space station launched Salyut 1
1971 June 29 First human-crewed orbital observatory (Orion 1) Soyuz 11 / Salyut 1
1971 July 31 First human-driven lunar rover Apollo 15
1971 November 14 First spacecraft to orbit another planet: Mars Mariner 9
1971 November 27 First hard landing on Mars Mars 2
1971 December 2 First soft Mars landing
First signals from Mars surface
Mars 3
1972 March 3 First human-made object sent on escape trajectory away from the Sun Pioneer 10
1972 July 15 First mission to enter the asteroid belt and leave inner Solar System Pioneer 10
1973 December 3 First Jupiter flyby Pioneer 10
1974 March 29 First Mercury flyby Mariner 10
1975 July 15 First multinational human-crewed mission Soyuz 19 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project
1975 October 20 First spacecraft to orbit another planet (Venus) (the orbiter)
First photograph from and of the surface of another planet (the lander)
Venera 9


First space shuttle
Date Event  Soviet Union Mission  US Mission
1981 April 12 First spaceplane in orbit, the Space Shuttle (test flight) STS-1
1986 February 19 First module of the first modular space station, Mir, launched, marking the start of the orbital assembly Mir Core Module
1987 May 15 First successful Soviet super heavy-lift launch vehicle; first Soviet rocket to use liquid hydrogen fuel Energia-Polyus
1991 December 31 United Nations accepts replacement of USSR with the Russian Federation.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Korolev and Freedom of Space: 14 February 1990 – 4 October 1957". NASA. Archived from the original on October 7, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2007.

External links[edit]