A History of Space Exploration: Timeline
1865 - Jules Verne published his novel, entitled From the Earth to the Moon.
1883 - Tsiolkovsky's Free Space was published. In this, Tsiolkovsky showed that a rocket would function in a vacuum due to Newton's Action-Reaction" laws of motion.
1895 - Tsiolkovsky published a book on rocketry and space exploration which was entitled Dreams of the Earth and the Sky.
1901 - H.G. Wells published his book, The First Men in the Moon, in which a substance with anti-gravity properties launched men to the moon.
1903 - Tsiolkovsky produced a work entitled Exploring Space with Devices. Within, he discussed the applications of liquid propellants.
1909 - Robert Goddard, in his study of fuels, determined that liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen would serve as an efficient source of propulsion, when properly combusted.
1911 - Russian Gorochof published plans for a reaction airplane which operated on crude oil and compressed air for fuel.
1914 - Goddard was granted two U.S. patents for rockets using solid fuel, liquid fuel, multiple propellant charges, and multi-stage designs.
1918 - November 6-7, Goddard fired several rocket devices for representatives of the U.S. Signal Corps, Air Corps, Army ordinance and other assorted guests, at the Aberdeen proving grounds.
1919 - Goddard wrote, and then submitted A Method of Attaining Extreme Altitudes, to the Smithsonian Institution for publication.
1923 - Herman Oberth published Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen (The Rocket into Interplanetary Space) in Germany, and cause much discussion about the technology of rocket propulsion.
1924 - Tsiolkovsky conceived the idea of multi-stage rockets, and discussed them for the first time in Cosmic Rocket Trains. A Central Committee for the Study of Rocket Propulsion was established in the Soviet Union, in April.
1925 - The Attainability of Celestial Bodies, by Walter Hohmann, described the principles involved in interplanetary flight.
1926 - March 16: Robert Goddard tested the world's first successful liquid-fueled rocket, in Auburn, Massachusetts. It attained a height of 41 feet in 2.5 seconds, and it came to rest 184 feet from the launch pad.
1927 - Rocket enthusiasts in Germany formed the Society for Space Travel (VfR). Hermann Oberth was among the first several members to join. Die Rakete, a rocket publication, began in Germany.
1928 - The first of nine volumes of an encyclopedia on interplanetary travel was published by Professor Nikolai A. Rynin, in Russia. In April, the first manned, rocket-powered, automobile was tested by Fritz von Opel, Max Valier and others, in Berlin, Germany. In June, the first manned flight in a rocket-powered glider was achieved. Friedrich Stamer was the pilot, and flew about one mile. Launch was Achieved by an elastic launch rope and a 44 pound thrust rocket, then a second rocket fired while airborne. Hermann Oberth began acting as consultant to Fritz Lang's Frau im Mond (Girl in the Moon) to build a rocket for premiere publicity. The prototype exploded on the launch pad.
1929 - Hermann Oberth published his second book about space travel, and one chapter included the idea of an electric space ship. On July 17, Robert Goddard launched a small 11 ft. rocket which carried a small camera, barometer and thermometer which were recovered after the flight. In August, many small solid-propellant rockets were attached to Junkers-33 sea-plane, and were used to achieve the first recorded jet-assisted airplane take-off. The movie version of Frau Im Mond was released. It created an increased interest in rocket technology in Germany.
1930 - In April, The American Interplanetary Society was founded in New York City by David Lasser, G. Edward Pendray, and ten others for the purpose of promoting interest in space travel. It was later renamed the American Rocket Society. December 17th marked the establishment of a rocket program Kummersdorf. It was also decided that the Kummersdorf proving grounds would be equipped to develop military missiles. On December 30th, Robert Goddard fired an 11 foot liquid fueled rocket to a height of 2000 feet at a speed of 500 miles per hour. The launch took place near Roswell New Mexico.
1931 - In Austria, Friedrich Schmiedl fired the world's first mail carrying rocket. David Lasser's book, The Conquest of Space, was published in the United States. May 14: VfR successfully launched a liquid-fueled rocket to a height of 60 meters.
1932 - Von Braun and his colleagues demonstrated a liquid-fueled rocket to the German Army. It crashed before the parachute opened, but Von Braun was soon employed to develop liquid fueled rockets for the Army. On April 19th, the first Goddard rocket with gyroscopically controlled vanes was fired. The vanes gave it automatically stabilized flight. In November, at Stockton N.J., the American Interplanetary Society tested a rocket design that they had adapted from VfR designs.
1933 - The Soviets launched a new rocket fueled by solid and liquid fuels, which reached a height of 400 meters. The launch took place near Moscow. At Stanten Island, New York, the American Interplanetary Society launched it's No. 2 rocket, and watched it attain 250 feet in altitude in 2 seconds.
1934 - In December, Von Braun and his associates launched 2 A-2 rockets, both to heights of 1.5 miles.
1935 - The Russians fired a liquid powered rocket that achieved a height of over eight miles. In March, a rocket of Robert Goddard's exceeded the speed of sound. In May, Goddard launched one of his gyro-controlled rockets to a height of 7500 feet, in New Mexico.
1936 - Scientists from the California Institute of Technology began rocket testing near Pasadena, CA. This marked the beginning of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Smithsonian Institution printed Robert Goddard's famous report, "Liquid Propellant Rocket Development," in March.
1937 - Von Braun and his team relocated to a special, purpose-built rocket testing facility at Peenemunde on the Baltic Coast of Germany. Russia established rocket test centers in Leningrad, Moscow and Kazan. Goddard watched one of his rockets fly to higher than 9,000 feet, on March 27. This was the highest altitude attained by any of the Goddard Rockets.
1938 - Robert Goddard began to develop high speed fuel pumps, in order to better outfit liquid fueled rockets.
1939 - German scientists fired, and recovered, A-5 rockets with gyroscopic controls that attained seven miles altitude and eleven miles range.
1940 - The Royal Air Force used rockets against the Luftwaffe planes in the Battle of Britain.
1941 - In July, the first U.S. based launch of a rocket assisted airplane took place. Lt. Homer A. Boushey piloted the craft. The U.S. Navy began developing "Mousetrap," which was a ship-based 7.2 inch mortar-fired bomb.
1942 - The U.S. Air Force launched it's first air-to-air and air-to-surface rockets. After a failed attempt in June, Germans managed to successfully launch an A-4 (V2) rocket, in October. It traveled 120 miles downrange from the launch pad.
1944 - January 1st marked the beginning of long-range rocket development, by the California Institute of Technology. This testing resulted in the Private-A and Corporal rockets. In September, the first fully operational V2 rocket was launched against London, from Germany. Over a thousand V2's followed. Between the 1st and 16th of December, twenty four Private-A rockets were test fired at Camp Irwin, CA.
1945 - Germany successfully launched the A-9, a winged prototype of the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which was designed to reach North America. It reached almost 50 miles in altitude, and achieved a speed of 2,700 mph. The launch was executed on January 24th. In February, the Secretary of War approved the Army's plans to establish the White Sands Proving Grounds, for testing new rockets. On April 1st through 13th, seventeen rounds of Private-F rockets were fired at Hueco Ranch, Texas. On May 5th, Peenemunde was captured by the Red army, but the facilities there were mostly destroyed by the personnel. Von Braun was captured by the U.S. and relocated to the White Sands proving ground in New Mexico. He was made part of "Operation Paperclip."
May 8th marked the end of the war in Europe. At the time of the German collapse, more than 20,000 V-1's and V-2's had been fired. Components of approximately 100 V-2 rockets arrived at the White Sands Testing Grounds, in August. On August 10, Robert Goddard died due to cancer. He died at the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore. In October, the U.S. Army established it's first Guided Missile Battalion, with the Army Guard Forces. The Secretary Of War approved plans to bring top German rocket engineers to the U.S., in order to further knowledge and technology. Fifty five German scientists arrived at Fort Bliss and White Sands Proving Grounds, in December.
1946 - In January, the U.S. outer space research program was started with captured V-2 rockets. A V-2 panel of representatives of interested agencies was formed, and more than 60 rockets were fired before the supply was finally exhausted. On March 15, the first American built V-2 rocket was static-fired at the White Sands Proving Grounds. The first American-built rocket to leave the earth's atmosphere (the WAC) was launched on March 22nd. It was launched from White Sands, and attained 50 miles of altitude. The first actual launch of an American-built V-2 took place at White Sands in April. The U.S. Army began a program to develop two stage rockets. This resulted in the WAC Corporal as the 2nd stage of a V-2. On October 24th, a V-2 with a motion picture camera was launched. It recorded images from 65 miles above the earth, covering 40,000 square miles. On December 17th, the first night-flight of a V-2 occurred. It achieved a record making 116 miles of altitude, and velocity of 3600mph. German rocket engineers arrived in Russia to begin work with Soviet rocket research groups. Sergei Korolev built rockets usingtechnology from the V-2.
1947 - The Russians began launch tests of their V2 rockets, at Kapustin Yar.
Telemetry was successfully used for the first time in a V-2, launched from White Sands.
On February 20th, the first of a series of rockets was launched for the purpose of testing ejection canister effectivity.
On May 29, a modified V-2 landed 1.5 miles south of Juarez, Mexico, narrowly missing a large ammunition dump.
The first V-2 to be launched from a ship was launched from the deck of the U.S.S. Midway, on September 6th.
1948 - On May 13th , the first two-stage rocket launched in the Western Hemisphere was launched from the White Sands facility. It was a V2 which had been converted to include a WAC-Corporal upper stage. It reached a total altitude of 79 miles.
White Sands launched the first in a series of rockets that contained live animals, on June 11. The launches were named "Albert," after the monkey that rode in the first rocket. Albert died of suffocation in the rocket. Several monkeys and mice were killed in the experiments.
On June 26, two rockets, a V-2 and an Aerobee were launched from White Sands. The V-2 attained 60.3 miles, while the Aerobee attained 70 miles altitude.
1949 - A number 5 two-stage rocket was launched to 244 miles of altitude, and 5,510 mph velocity over White Sands. It set a newrecord for the time-being, on February 24.
On May 11, President Truman signed a bill for a 5,000 mile test range to extend from Cape Kennedy Florida.
The Secretary of the Army approved the relocation of the White Sands scientists and their equipment to Huntsville, Alabama.
1950 - On July 24th, the first rocket launch from Cape Kennedy was a number 8 of the two-stage rockets. It climbed to a total of 25 miles in altitude.
A number 7 two-stage rocket was launched from Cape Kennedy. It set the record for the fastest moving man-made object, by traveling Mach 9.
1951 - The Jet Propulsion Laboratory of California launched the first of a series of 3,544 Loki rockets, on June 22. The program ended 4 years later, after having fired the most rounds in ten years at White Sands.
On August 7, a Navy Viking 7 rocket set the new altitude record for single stage rockets by reaching 136 miles and a speed of 4,100 mph.
The launch of the 26th V-2, on October 29, concluded the use of the German rockets in upper atmosphere testing.
1952 - On July 22, the first production-line Nike rocket made a successful flight.
1953 - A missile was fired from an underground launch facility in White Sands on June 5. The facility was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The first launch of the Army's Redstone missile, on August 20th, was conducted at Cape Kennedy by Redstone Arsenal Personnel.
1954 - On August 17th, the first firing of a Lacrosse "Group A" missile was conducted at the White Sands facility.
1955 - The White House announced, on July 29th, that President Eisenhower approved plans to launch unmanned satellites to circle the earth, as participation in the International Geophysical Year. The Russians soon made similar announcements.
On November 1st, the first guided-missile-equipped cruiser was placed in commission at the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
On November 8th, the Secretary of Defense approved the Jupiter and Thor Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) programs.
President Eisenhower placed highest priority on Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and the Thor and Jupiter IRBM programs on December 1st.
1957 - First Earth orbiter, Soviet Sputnik 1, 370 mile high orbit, 184-lb.
October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union stunned the world by placing the first satellite, Sputnik, into space. The Russian spacecraft orbited around the earth in great, amorphous loops. Americans reacted to the Russian Sputnik with amazement and awe. Many doubted that it was really in space, some top minds reported it as unimportant and useless. Some saw it as an object to blown out of the sky, in truth it was nothing more than a dummy space ship.
Sputnik 2 was launched on November 3 with the dog, Laika, the first animal in space
Unsuccessful Vanguard firing in the USA
1958 - First successful American satellite: USAF 31-lb Explorer First successful Vanguard launching
Discovery of the Van Allen Zone Tests with Pioneer rockets (pre- lunar probes)
US Congress Space Act Established - NASA (National Aeronautical Space Agency)
1959 - Russians launch Luna 1 (first probe to go near the Moon)
358-lb. Soviet Luna 2 made first crash-landing on the Moon
Far side of the Moon photographed with the probe 614 - lb. Soviet Luna 3
1960 - First television weather satellite Tiros 1
First communications satellite 124-lb. Echo 1
Two dogs (Strelka and Belka) in Sputnik 5 became the first animals to be successfully returned to Earth in August
1961 - First Venus probe launched by the Russians Venera 1, but contact soon lost
First manned space-flight by Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin for 60 min in Vostok 1, USSR
Gherman Titov spends more than a day in space (25 hours) in the second Vostok manned flight in August
First manned American space-flight by astronaut Shepard, sub-orbital
1962 - First American orbital flight by NASA, John Glenn for 5-hrs in Mercury 6
First British-built satellite (Ariel) launched from the USA
NASA 730 - lb. Ranger 4 got TV close-up pictures of the Moon
Transatlantic television programs relayed by the 171 - lb. Telstar satellite
First active geodetic satellite (Anna 1 B)
Russians launch the first Mars probe, but contact lost
Venus probe Mariner 2 sends back close-range information about Venus
1963 - First maneuverable satellite (Polyot 1, USSR)
NASA 80 - lb. Syncom II, geosynchronous communications satellite
Two spacecraft in orbit at the same time (Nikolayev and Popovich, USSR)
First space-woman (Valentina Tereshkova-Nikolayeva, USSR)
September 1, the first operational A-4, named the V2, is launched against London, the first of over a thousand to be launched
Arthur C Clarke proposes the concept of the geo-stationary orbit for global , communications in an article in the October issue of Wireless World
On 5 May, Peenemunde is captured by the Red Army but most facilities have ready been destroyed by the personnel on Braun and Dornberger. Objects were relocated to White Sands Proving Ground 1, New Mexico under 'Operation paperclip'
When the war was over, a team of one hundred twenty German rocket scientists, headed by Dr Wernher von Braun, was brought to the United States under a project code-named Operation Paperclip. Three-hundred train carloads of V-2's were dismantled and shipped to America for test launching. In 1949, a V-2 rocket with solid upper stages launched a payload to the unprecedented altitude of 250 miles. At its apex of flight it had no velocity and fell back to earth
1964 - ESRO established in Europe with 10 member nations
Close-range photographs of the Moon obtained from 806-lb Ranger 7 before impact (USA)
NASA 830-lb Nimbus 1 in polar orbit got complete world cloud cover each day
NASA 575-lb Mariner 4 got TV pictures of Mars on 6100-mi fly-by
First three-crew space-craft in Voskhod 1, USSR
1965 - First 'space-walk' by Cosmonaut Leonov, USSR
First American 'space-walk' by astronaut White
NASA launched first commercial communications satellite, 87-lb Intelsat 1, in geosynchronous orbit over 27' W longitude
First cosmic-ray measurements outside the atmosphere by Soviet 25,000-lb Proton 1 I
First impact on Venus' surface by Soviet 2ioo-11)Venera 3
Close-range photographs of Mars obtained from Mariner 4 (USA)
Improved photographs of the Moon's far side obtained from Zond 3 (USSR)
Successful space-docking operation (Gemini 6 and 7, USA)
1966 - First soft landing on the Moon, by Luna 9 (USSR)
Russian probe Venus 3 lands on Venus, though contact had been lost
First circum-lunar probe, 3600-lb Lunar 10 (USSR)
First American soft-landing on the Moon (Surveyor 1) Improved close-range photographs of the Moon from 846-lb Orbiter 1 NASA
1967 - Disaster at Cape Kennedy, resulting in the deaths of three astronauts
Death of Colonel Komarov in Soyuz 1 due to parachute failure
First soft-landing on Venus by (USSR)
First chemical analysis of lunar soil by NASA 619-lb Surveyor 5
1968 - Testing of the American Saturn 5 rocket (Project Apollo)
First recovery of circum-lunar probe, Zond 5 which had animals aboard, (USSR)
First manned Apollo flight: Apollo 7 (Schirra, Cunningham, Eisele)
First flight round the Moon: Apollo 8 (Borman, Lovell, Anders)
NASA OAO 2 orbiting astronomical observatory (4436-lb)
1969 - First Russian manned docking maneuver (Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5)
First space testing of the Lunar Module: Apollo 9 (McDivitt, Scott, Schweickart)
Further soft-landings of unmanned probes on Venus: Venus 5 and Venus 6 (USSR)(Stafford, Cernan, Young)
July 21 First men on the moon in Apollo 11 (Armstrong and Aldrin: Collins in orbit) returning 48-lbs of lunar samples from Mare Tranquillitatis
Further probes sent past Mars: Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 (USA)
1970 - First Japanese Earth orbiter, 58-lb Lambda
First Chinese Earth orbiter (386-lbs)
Soviet unmanned Luna returned 3-5 oz of lunar soil after soft landing in Mare Fecunditatis
First unmanned lunar vehicle, Lunokhod 1, soft-landed by Soviet Luna 17 for ii-months' operation in Mare Imbrium
X-ray survey of the sky started by NASA-Italian 320-lb Explorer 42 (Uhuru-)
France launched Earth orbiter
1971 - Soviets launched Mars 2 and 3 for first impact on Mars the planet by Mars 2 and first soft landing on Dec 2, 1971 by Mars 3
NASA launched 2271-lb Mariner 9, first orbiter of Mars, which telemeter high-resolution TV pictures of the surface
First space lab, Soviet 41,580-lb. Salyut 1, visited for 22 days by Cosmonauts Dobrovolsky, Patsayev, and Volkov, who died in Soyuz on return to Earth
First manned Lunar Rover used by Astronauts Scott and Irwin on Apollo-15 mission near Hadley Rille
First sub-satellite launched from CSM by Astronaut Worden
1972 - NASA launched Pioneer 10 for first Jupiter fly-by in December 1973
First astronomical telescope on the Moon with NASA Apollo i6 and Astronauts Young and Duke
First color-image of Earth from NASA 1800lb ERTS i
32-in telescope in Earth orbit Oil 4850-lb OAO 3 (Copernicus)
Last manned landing on Moon by Astronauts Cernan and Schmitt in NASA Apollo 17; 250-lbs of lunar samples returned from Taurus-Littrow
1973 - NASA 190,000-lb Skylab in Earth orbit made many astronomical observations and engineering experiments performed by three crews in visits as long as 85 days
Soviet Union launched Mars 4, 5, and 6, of which Mars 5 soft landed in March 1974
NASA iio8-lb Mariner 10 launched for Venus and Mercury fly-bys
1974 - German Helios 1 launched by NASA to orbit sun at 0-3 AU
1975 - Soviet Union launched Venera 9 and 10 to orbit Venus; Venera-9 lander reached the surface October 22 and transmitted the first pictures from another planet's surface
NASA Apollo docked with Soviet Soyuz in joint ASTP mission
NASA launched 7500-lb Vikings 1 and 2 to visit Mars in July 1976 with 2293-lb landers to make first analysis of Martian soil
1980 - NASA Space Shuttle to be used repeatedly
Solar maximum mission satellite (Solar Max) launched on 14 February but fails 1 month later. It featured the first in-orbit satelliterepair mass on the space shuttle mission April 1984
Voyager I reaches Saturn and flies within 78,000 miles (126,000 km) of its cloud tops. It sent back spectacular pictures of the rings and discovered many new moons. The first of the powerful Intelsat V communications satellites, with 12,000 volt circuits, is launched on 6-December. The first operational orbiter Columbia is rolled out to the launch pad on 29 December, looking to a launch in the following spring
1981 - John Young and Robert Crippen flew Columbia into orbit on 12-April on the space shuttle's maiden mission (STS- 1). It lasted for 36 orbits, 54 hours, launched from the Kennedy Space Center, it returned to the Edwards Air Force Base in California, on 14-April. On 25-August Voyager 1 makes its closest approach, 63,000 miles (IO 1,000 km), to Saturn
Columbia, on the second shuttle mission (STS-2),went into space again for a 36-orbit flight on 12-November, piloted by Joe Engle and Richard Truly. It was the first time any spacecraft has returned to space for a second time. The crew tested the remote manipulator system robot arm.
1982 - Columbia makes its third flight (STS-3) on 22-March, crewed by Jack Lousma and Gordon Fullerton landed at White Sands, New Mexico, after an 8-day flight. STS-4 began on 27-June, with Thomas Mattingly and Henry Hartsfleld flying Columbia on a 7-day mission, the final test mission.
1983 - Columbia becomes operational on STS-5, lifting off in November. It carries a record four-man crew, Vance Brand, Robert Overmyer, Joseph Allen and William Lenoir. They launched two communication satellites.
International infrared astronomy satellite IRAS launched on 25-January, discovered comets, possible new solar systems.
Challenger, on STS-6, takes place on 4-April, with a crew of four, Paul Weitz, Karol Bobko, Donald Petersen and Story Musgrave. During a 5-day flight the crew deployed the first tracking and data relay satellite (TDRS), and Petersen and Musgrave tested the new shuttle spacesuit in the orbiter cargo bay.
European X-ray satellite Exosat launched on 26-May.
First American woman astronaut Sally Ride soars into orbit on Challenger's second flight (STS-7) on June 24th, along with Robert Crippen, Frederick Hauck, John Fabian and Norman Thagard, making a record five-person crew.
On June 13th Pioneer 10 becomes the first probe to venture into interstellar space when it crossed the orbit of the outermost planet, Neptune
On August 30th, STS-8 launched, the crew of Challenger included Richard Truly, Daniel Brandenstein, Dale Gardner, Guion Bluford, William Thornton, and six rats
The first flight of Space-lab on the shuttle begins on November 28. The space shuttle is Columbia, with a crew of six conducted over 70 experiments on a 10-day flight. Among them is a German scientist, the first non-American to fly in the US space program. The other crew members are John Young, Brewster Shaw, Robert Parker, Owen Garriott and Byron Lichtenberg
1984 - First human to orbit Earth and become first human satellite, Bruce McCandless (U.S.A.)
1985 - First probe to reach a comet (USA)
1986 - First probe to reach Uranus (USA)
1987 - First permanently-occupied space station, Space Station MIR (USSR)
1988 - Longest manned space-flight: 365 days by cosmonauts Titov and Manarov (USSR)
1989 - First probe to reach Neptune: Voyager 2 (USA)