Timeline of the Space Race

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The first image of another celestial body returned from Space (Luna 3's image of the far side of the Moon)

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. On July 31, 1956, the United States announced its intention to launch an artificial satellite during the International Geophysical Year (July 1, 1957 to December 31, 1958). Two days later the Soviet Union announced its intention to do the same. The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, beating the United States and stunning people all over the world.


Date Significance  Soviet Union 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 dog in orbit (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
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 (Belka and Strelka) Sputnik 5

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


Date Significance  Soviet Union Mission  US Mission
January 31, 1961 First Humanoid animal Ham (chimpanzee) in Space Mercury-Redstone 2
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)
First human space mission that landed with pilot still in spacecraft and thus the first complete human spaceflight by FAI definitions[1]
Freedom 7
May 19, 1961 First planetary flyby (Venus) Venera 1
August 6, 1961 First crewed mission lasting a full day. Vostok 2, Gherman Titov
March 7, 1962 First orbital solar observatory OSO-1-NASA
April 26, 1962 First spacecraft to impact the far side of the Moon.[2] Ranger 4-NASA
April 26, 1962 First artificial satellite in orbit made by a non-superpower

(launched in orbit by US)

 United KingdomAriel 1
July 10, 1962 First active communications satellite Telstar-AT&T
August 12, 1962 First dual crewed spaceflight
First ship-to-ship radio contact and First simultaneous flight of crewed spacecraft
Vostok 3 / Vostok 4, Andriyan Nikolayev and Pavel Popovich
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 and the first spaceplane (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
June 3, 1965 First space walk by an American Gemini 4-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
September 14-21, 1968 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
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
First human spaceflight to enter the gravitational influence of another celestial body
Apollo 8-NASA
January 16, 1969 First crew exchange in space

First docking of two manned spacecraft

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 claimed 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  Soviet Union Mission  US Mission
April 14, 1970 First explosion on board a spacecraft, crew survived. (Jim Lovell, John Swigert, Fred Haise) Apollo 13-NASA
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 19, 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
August 5, 1971 First spacewalk in deep space 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 2-NASA
July 28, 1973 56-day human-crewed space record Skylab 3-NASA
November 16, 1973 84-day human-crewed space record Skylab 4-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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Geek Trivia: A leap of fakes". Retrieved 18 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Discussion". Space Policy. 14 (1): 6. 1998-02-01. doi:10.1016/S0265-9646(97)00038-6.

External links[edit]