The Great Space Race

Beginning in 1957, the world became set on exploring space. The United States and the Soviet Union compete in a "Space Race".

1957-10-04 00:00:00

Sputnik 1

The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1 into orbit. Sputnik 1 was a man-made satellite. It was visible from the Earth and put pressure on the United States to launch its own satellite.

1958-01-31 00:00:00

Explorer 1

The US launches Explorer 1 into orbit. It was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Explorer 1 discovers a radiation belt, the Earth's magnetic field that contains trillions of energy particles from the sun.

1961-04-12 00:00:00

Yuri Gagarin

The Russian Yuri Gagarin becomes the very first man to be launched into space. He was aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1. He made one orbit around the Earth.

1962-02-20 00:00:00

John Glenn

In 1962, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth. He orbits the Earth three times on spacecraft Friendship 7. Another astronaut Scott Carpenter also orbits the Earth three times three months later.

1963-06-16 00:00:00

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first women in space. She was from Russia and was in Vostok 6. She orbits the Earth 48 times in 71 hours was was chosen from over 400 applicants.

1965-03-18 00:00:00

Alexei Leonov

Alexei Leonov becomes the first man to walk in space. This cosmonaut (what astronauts are called in Russia) leaves his spacecraft and walks in space for 12 minutes. This builds pressure on the US to beat the Russians in the "Space Race".

1967-01-01 00:00:00

3 American astronauts die

While testing their spacecraft, a fire starts and traps Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee, and Ed White. The American astronauts were part of the Apollo program and were supposed to be on the first manned Apollo mission. All 3 astronauts die in the testing center in Florida.

1968-10-11 00:00:00

Apollo 7

Apollo 7 safely completes the first manned mission for the Apollo program. Americans Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, and Walter Cunningham make the first successful manned Apollo mission as part of the Apollo 7 flight. They are in space for 10 days and orbit the Earth one time in a spacecraft that has been redesigned since the Apollo 1 tragedy.

1969-07-20 00:00:00

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the Moon. With the whole world watching, Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong lands his spacecraft, "The Eagle," on the Moon. Armstrong is the first man to do this and when he made his first step he said, "That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

1971-03-30 00:00:00

Mariner 9

American Mariner 9 is the first spacecraft to look at Mars when it orbits the planet less than a month before the Russian Mars 2. Mariner 9 provides over 7,000 photos in the 17 months it is in space.

1973-05-14 00:00:00

1st Space Station

Skylab, the first space station, is launched by NASA into space and remains in orbit for over six years. The space station is not manned, but astronauts do fly to it for science experiments. Skylab crashes on reentry to Earth and pieces scatter across the Western hemisphere.

1976-07-20 00:00:00

Viking 1

NASA lands Viking 1 on Mars. It is the first spacecraft to land on Mars. NASA kept Viking 1 on Mars for six years and collected a wide range of photos and scientific data.

1983-06-19 00:00:00

Sally Ride

American astronaut Sally Ride blasts into space on the Challenger mission STS-7. She is the first American woman to go into space, 20 years after Soviet cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova makes her space flight.

1986-01-28 00:00:00


Seventy-three seconds after lift-off, the space shuttle Challenger explodes and breaks into pieces in the sky. All of the American astronauts on board die as the nation watches the tragedy on television.

1998-02-01 00:00:00

International Space Station

The first piece of the International Space Station is launched into space to provide a place for astronauts from different countries to live and conduct experiments in space. It has remained in space since then and is not supposed to be brought back down until 2020.

2012-02-01 00:00:00

Tourists in Space?

SpaceShipTwo, a spacecraft owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, completes test flights. It is a spaceplane that Branson intends to use to allow tourists to fly into space.

The Great Space Race

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