Space History

SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME, HUMANS HAVE BEEN DREAMING OF SPACE. EXPLORATION IS PART OF WHO WE ARE, WHAT MAKES US TICK, IT’S IN OUR DNA.

For over 15 years, the Hubble telescope has taken us farther into the galaxy than ever before, but it is in our nature to want to know even more.

From Galileo who studied the heavens in the 1500s, to Kepler’s fascination with the universe nearly a hundred years later, to the early part of the 20th century, we’ve witnessed scientists like Robert Goddard launch the first rocket that paved the way to exploring our universe.

We gathered around black and white televisions to witness Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the Moon. We listened and intensely watched as engineers furiously scrambled to find a way to bring Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert safely back to Earth. The American public watched in awe as the first Space Shuttle launched in 1981, launching a curiosity in human spaceflight that we had never seen before.

Since Goddard’s rocket that went over 1.6 miles in the air and reached speeds of 550 mph in 1966, we have been to the moon and back to build an amazing orbiting laboratory that is as large as a football field. It’s almost unimaginable to see what we have accomplished – but more is on the horizon.

Our next exploration missions are being engineered with the most advanced technologies to keep humans safe during the journey aboard Orion far into deep space. The newest rocket designed by NASA is being built on the most powerful propulsion system in the world and will go farther into our solar system than ever before – including Mars, a journey that will take more than 9 months to complete.

Great discoveries are about to be made. Another chapter in space history is about to take place. Take a look at how we got from Goddard’s rocket to where we are today.

Marvel at our accomplishments. Enjoy the journey of space. Dare to explore what we have yet to discover.

Take a Look at how we got from Goddards's Rocket to where we are today.
Marvel at our Accomplishments. Dare to Dream Bigger. Come Along for the ride.
Sputnik 1 travelled at about 29,000 kilometres per hour (18,000 mph), taking 96.2 minutes to complete each orbit.
October 4, 1957

Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth, is launched by the U.S.S.R.

January 31, 1958

Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite in orbit, lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida

October 1, 1958

NASA is founded

“The Blue Marble,” taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometers (28,000 mi).
April 12, 1961

The U.S.S.R. launches Vostok 1, carrying Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, He orbits the Earth once

May 5, 1961

Alan Shepard, the first U.S. astronaut in space, is launched aboard Freedom 7, in a sub-orbital flight

February 20, 1962

Friendship 7 launches John Glenn, the first American in orbit. He orbits the Earth three times

June 16, 1963

The first woman in space is launched aboard Vostok 6 by the U.S.S.R. She orbits the earth 48 times

March 18, 1965

The first spacewalk is made by Soviet Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, lasting 12 minutes

January 27, 1967

First Apollo Mission

July 20, 1969

First Lunar landing by Apollo 11, the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon

The Apollo Command/Service Module was one of two spacecraft, along with the Lunar Module, used by NASA to land astronauts on the Moon
April 11, 1970

Apollo 13 experiences major incident with oxygen tank, damaging power, electrical and life support systems 56 hours into flight. Ground engineers and crew devise solution and the crew returns safely to Earth on April 17.

January 31, 1971

Apollo 14 moon mission returns 98 pounds of lunar material for study. Astronaut Alan Shephard hits first golf ball on the moon

November 14, 1971

Mariner 9 is the first spacecraft to orbit Mars

May 14, 1973

Skylab is launched by the U.S.

July 17, 1975

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project: American Apollo and Soyuz rocket rendezvous in orbit, conduct mutual experiments over two days period

September 3, 1976

Viking 2 lands on Mars

February 18, 1977

The first space shuttle orbiter, Enterprise is flown in test flight

April 12, 1981

First manned mission U.S. Space Transportation System (STS-1) Columbia is launched

April 4, 1983

Space shuttle Challenger (STS-6) launches crew and completes first American space walk in nine years

June 18, 1983

Sally Ride is the first U.S. woman in space, aboard Challenger (STS-7)

January 25, 1984

President Reagan boldly announces plan to build a Space Station within a decade

October 5, 1984

Challenger mission STS-41G lifts off, with first crew with two women. Kathleen Sullivan is first woman to walk in space

January 28, 1986

Challenger (STS-51L) accident. Crew members Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis and Christina McAuliffe all killed during explosion 73 seconds after lift-off

February 20, 1986

Soviet space station Mir is launched

Hubble's orbit outside the distortion of Earth's atmosphere allows it to take extremely high-resolution images with almost no background light.
April 24, 1990

Hubble Space Telescope is launched aboard Discovery (STS-31)

February 3, 1995

Space Shuttle Discovery STS-63 launches, piloted by first female pilot, Eileen Collins

June–July 1995

Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-71 docks with Mir space station. Atlantis transports Russian cosmonauts back to Earth

March 22, 1996

Shannon Lucid, U.S astronaut, become first female astronaut on space station Mir

July 4, 1997

Mars Pathfinder lands on Mars, returning 1.2 gigabits of data

October 29, 1998

Astronaut John Glenn, returned to space at age 77, aboard Space Shuttle Discovery STS -95, becoming the oldest man in space

November 20, 1998

First ISS module, Zarya, put into Orbit

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter [MRO] is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit.
February 14, 2000

First orbiting on an asteroid (433 Eros)

October 31, 2000

First crew of the International Space Station launches from Kazakhstan

April 7, 2001

Mars Odyssey probe is launched, enters Mars orbit in October 2001

April 28, 2001

Dennis Tito becomes the first Space Tourist, flying aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket for an 8-day trip to the International Space Station

February 1, 2003

Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 broke up upon re-entry and all seven crew members lost their lives. Killed were Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon

January 3 & January 24, 2004

NASA lands two mobile geology labs on the surface of Mars. Spirit and Opportunity rovers gather evidence of Martian histor

August 3, 2004

Messenger launched to conduct an in-depth study of Mercury

July 26, 2005

NASA returns to flight with STS-114 Eileen Collins commander

June 13, 2010

First sample return from an asteroid

March 18, 2011

Messenger arrived in Mercury’s orbit

July 9, 2011

Final Mission of U.S. Space Shuttle program, with STS-135 Atlantis

November 2011

Congress designates SLS as rocket for the future

May 2012

Administration announced Orion will be the Multi-purpose crew vehicle for deep space exploration.

August 6, 2012

Curiosity rover lands on Mars

October 2013

Initial Power On for Orion Crew Module

November 18, 2013

MAVEN launches from KSC, sending spacecraft to study the upper atmosphere of Mars

January 8, 2014

Orbital Sciences Corporation launches Cygnus rocket to resupply the ISS