Space Travel Timeline 1926-Present

Space Travel Timeline

This Space Travel Timeline details the history of space travel and exploration including details of the Space Race between the USA and the USSR.


First Rockets
Space Race
2010s – present

Space Travel Timeline – First Rockets

1926 (16th March)
The first liquid fuelled rocket was launched by Robert Goddard.
1929 (17th July)
Robbert Goddard launched a rocket carrying a barometer and a camera from Auburn, Massachusetts.
1942 (3rd October)
The V-2 rocket was successfully test launched in Peenemunde, Germany by Wernher von Braun. It was the first ballistic missile.

Space Travel Timeline – Space Race Began

1946 (10th May)
The United States military made a flight that reached an altitude of 70 miles (112 km).
1947 (20th February)
A number of fruit flies were sent into space by the United States to discover how living organisms function in space.
1957 (4th October)
The Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik 1 from Tyuratam (Kazakhstan).
1957 (3rd November)
The Soviet Union sent a dog, Laika, into space in Sputnik 2.
1957 (6th December)
The USA attempted to send the satellite Vanguard TV-3 into space but it exploded during launch.
1958 (31st January)
The United States successfully launched the satellite Explorer 1 into space.
1958 (1st October)
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded in the United States.
1959 (2nd January)
The Soviet Union launched Luna 1. It was the first craft to leave the Earth’s orbit.
1959 (28th February)
Discover 1 was the first United States spy satellite to be launched. However, it failed to send data back to Earth.
1959 (28th May)
The United States successfully sent two monkeys, Able and Baker on a suborbital (less than a complete orbit of the Earth) flight.
1959 (7th August)
Explorer 6, launched by NASA, returned the first photographs of Earth from space.
1959 (12th September)
The Soviet Union launched Luna 2.
1959 (14th September)
The Soviet Union crashed Luna 2 into the Moon.
1960 (11th August)
Discover 13 was launched by NASA, it was the first American satellite to send data back to Earth.
1960 (24th October)
The Soviet Union attempted to launch a probe to Mars but it exploded during launch killing 126 people.
1961 (12th February)
A Soviet probe, sent to Venus stopped sending data after a week in space.
1961 (12th April)
Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first man in space. He made a single orbit of the Earth in Vostok 1 taking 108 minutes in Vostok 1.
1961 (5th May)
Alan Shepard became the first American in space after making a 15 minute suborbital flight on Mercury Freedom 7.
1961 (25th May)
United States President John F Kennedy announced that America would put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.
1962 (20th February)
US astronaut John Glenn, on board Mercury 6, was the first American to orbit the Earth.
1962 (10th July)
Telstar 1, a satellite launched by the United States, was the first to transmit television signals from space.
1962 (28th July)
The first Soviet spy satellite, Cosmos 7, was launched.
1962 (27th August)
The US probe, Mariner 2, was the first to successfully pass another planet when it passed Venus.
1963 (16th June)
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space. Travelling in Vostok 6, she orbited the Earth 48 times before returning to Earth.
1964 (28th July)
The US probe, Ranger 7, was the first to successfully transmit photographs of the Moon’s surface back to Earth.
1964 (8th April)
The United States craft, Gemeni 1, made an unmanned space flight completing 63 orbits of the Earth.
1964 (12th October)
Voshkhod 1 was launched by the Soviet Union. Its crew of 3 cosmonauts made 16 orbits of the Earth.
1965 (18th March)
Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first spacewalk lasting for 12 minutes.
1965 (23rd March)
The United States launched Gemini 3 with 2 astronauts, Gus Grissom and John Young, on board.
1965 (3rd June)
Ed White was the first American to walk in space after leaving the Gemini 4 spacecraft. The other astronaut, James McDivitt remained on the craft.
1965 (14th July)
The US craft, Mariner 4, was the first to successfully fly past Mars and transmit photographs back to Earth.
1965 (21st August)
Gemini 5 was launched from Cape Kennedy with a crew of 2, Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad. It remained in space for 8 days.
1965 (15th December)
Gemini 7 was launched with 2 US astronauts, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell, on board. During the 14 day flight they made a successful rendezvous with Gemini 6 manned by Walter Schirra and Thomas Stafford.
1965 (26th November)
The first French satellite, Asterix, was launched into space.
1966 (3rd February)
The unmanned Soviet craft, Luna 9, landed on the Moon.
1966 (1st March)
The Soviet probe, Venera 3, landed on Venus but failed to return any data.
1966 (16th March)
Gemini 8 launched from Cape Kennedy in the United States with a crew of 2 astronauts, Neil Armstrong and David Scott. During its 10 hour flight it successfully docked with an Agena rocket launched earlier.
1966 (3rd April)
The Soviet probe, Luna 10 became the first craft to orbit the Moon.
1966 (2nd June)
Surveyor 1 was the first US craft to land on the Moon.
1967 (27th January)
A launch rehearsal for Apollo 1, scheduled for launch on 21st February, was held with astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. A cockpit fire killed all 3 men. An investigation was launched.
1967 (5th April)
A report into the Apollo spacecraft revealed many problem areas and defects that needed to be corrected before any further flights were made.
1967 (23rd April)
The Soviet Union launched Soyuz 1 manned by Vladimir Komarov. The craft completed 18 orbits before returning to Earth. During descent the parachute failed to open and Komarov died.
1968 (15th September)
The Soviet Union’s spacecraft Zond 5 was the first to orbit the Moon and return to Earth.
1968 (11th October)
Apollo 7 was launched by the United States with a crew of 3 astronauts, Walter Schirra, Donn Eisele and Walter Cunningham. It remained in space for 11 days and made the first live TV broadcast of humans in space.
1968 (26th October)
Soyuz 3 was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome (Kazakhstan) with cosmonaut Georgy Beregovoy on board. The craft made a successful rendezvous with the unmanned Soyuz 2 but failed to dock.
1968 (21st December)
Apollo 8 launched from Cape Kennedy, United States with a crew 3, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders, on board. It was the first manned craft to orbit the Moon.
1969 (14th January)
Soyuz 4 was launched from Baikonur (Kazakhstan) with cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov on board.
1969 (16th January)
Soyuz 4 successfully docked with Soyuz 5 and cosmonauts Yevgeny Khrunov and Aleksei Yeliseyev transferred to Soyuz 4 leaving Boris Volynov in Soyuz 5.
1969 (3rd March)
Apollo 9 was launched from Cape Kennedy. Manned by James McDivitt, David Scott and Russell Schweickart the craft and crew tested operations and procedures that would be used for a Moon landing.
1969 (18th May)
Apollo 10 was launched from Cape Kennedy carrying astronauts Thomas Stafford, John Young and Eugene Cernan. The Lunar Module descended to 8 miles above the surface of the Moon.
1969 (16th July)
The United States launched Apollo 11 from Cape Kennedy manned by astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin.
1969 (20th July)
The lunar module carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin from Apollo 11, landed on the Moon. Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon, Aldrin the second.
1969 (14th November)
Apollo 12 was launched from Cape Kennedy carrying astronauts Pete Conrad, Richard Gordon and Alan Bean. Conrad and Bean visited the Moon and collected samples and retrieved parts from the crashed Surveyor 3 spacecraft.

Space Travel Timeline – 1970s

1970 (11th February)
Japan launched its first satellite, Ohsumi, into space.
1970 (11th April)
Apollo 13 was launched from Cape Kennedy manned by US astronauts Jim Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise with the intention of making a third lunar landing. However, the explosion of an oxygen tank forced the crew to abandon the mission and return home in the lunar module.
1970 (24th April)
China launched its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong-1, into space.
1970 (12th September)
Luna 16, an unmanned space probe, was launched from Baikonur, USSR (Kazakhstan. It successfully landed on the Moon and collected samples.
1970 (17th November)
The Soviet Luna 17 spacecraft landed on the Moon. It contained the robot craft Lunokhod 1 which took photographs, collected samples and made experiments.
1970 (15th December)
The Soviet Union spacecraft, Venera 7, successfully landed on Mars. It sent back data including a temperature reading of 470C.
1971 (31st January)
Apollo 14 was launched carrying astronauts Alan Shepard, Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell. Shepard and Mitchell landed on the Moon and collected samples and made scientific experiments.
1971 (19th April)
The Soviet Union launched the first space station, Salyut 1, from Baikonur.
1971 (6th June)
The Soviet Union launched Soyuz 11 manned by cosmonauts Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov and Vikrot Patsayev. It successfully docked with Salyut 1. However, there were problems on board and on re-entry the cabin de-pressurised killing all 3 cosmonauts.
1971 (26th July)
Apollo 15 launched from Cape Kennedy carrying American astronauts David Scott, Alfred Worden and James Irwin. Scott and Irwin spent 3 days on the Moon and successfully used the Lunar Roving Vehicle.
1971 (28th October)
The United Kingdom launched the satellite, Prospero, into space.
1971 (13th November)
Mariner 9 successfully orbited Mars returning pictures of the planet’s surface.
1972 (2nd March)
Pioneer 10, a US space probe, was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in America. It successfully flew past Jupiter, collecting photographs of the planet before leaving the Solar System.
1972 (16th April)
Apollo 16 was launched from Cape Kennedy with astronauts John Young, Ken Mattingly and Charles Duke. Young and Duke made a Moon landing and collected samples to take back to Earth.
1972 (7th December)
Apollo 17, the last of the Apollo missions, was launched with astronauts Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt. Cernan and Schmitt spent 3 days on the Moon taking samples, conducting scientific experiments and calculations and taking photographs.
1973 (5th April)
Pioneer 11 was launched to fly past Jupiter and Saturn.
1973 (14th May)
The US space station Skylab, was launched into space.
1974 (24th March)
Mariner 10 flew past Mercury and sent data back to Earth.
1974 (3rd December)
Pioneer 10 flew within 43,500 miles of Jupiter and returned the first close images of the planet.
1975 (19th April)
India’s first satellite, Aryabhata, was launched by the Soviet Union.
1975 (31st May)
The European Space Agency was formed.
1975 (17th July)
A US Apollo spacecraft successfully docked with a Soviet Soyuz craft. Astronaut Thomas Stafford and Alexei Leonov met in the docked area.
1975 (9th August)
The European Space Agency launched the satellite Cos-B into space.
1975 (20th August)
The US spacecraft Viking 1 was launched bound for Mars.
1975 (9th September)
The US spacecraft Viking 2 was launched bound for Mars. It remained operational for nearly 5 years sending thousands of images back to Earth.
1975 (October)
The Soviet Venera 9 and 10 crafts landed on Venus and sent photos back to Earth.
1976 (20th July)
The US spacecraft Viking 1 became the first craft to land on Mars. It remained operational for 6 years sending back thousands of pictures.
1976 (September)
The US spacecraft Viking 2 landed on Mars in the Plain of Utopia. It sent back pictures of water frost.
1977 (20th August)
Voyager 2 was launched to fly to the outer edges of the Solar System flying past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
1977 (5th September)
Voyager 1 was launched to fly to the outer edges of the Solar System flying past Jupiter and Saturn.
1977 (29th September)
The Soviet space station Salyut 6 began orbiting the Earth.
1978 (22nd February)
Navstar 1, the first GPS satellite was launched into space.
1979 (5th March)
Voyager 1 came within 349,000 km of Jupiter. It returned photographs of the planet.
1979 (9th July)
Voyager 2 came within 570,000 km of Jupiter.
1979 (11th July)
The American space station, Skylab, fell back to Earth landing in western Australia.
1979 (1st September)
Pioneer 11 flew within 21,000 km of Saturn returning the first close photographs of the planet.

Space Travel Timeline – 1980s

1980 (18th July)
India launched its satellite, Rohini 1, into space.
1980 (12th November)
Voyager 1 flew past Saturn sending back images of the planet.
1981 (12th April)
The Space Shuttle Columbia made its first flight into space. The Space Shuttles were designed to be re-used taking off and landing on purpose built runways.
1981 (26th August)
Voyager 2 was at its closest point to Saturn. It took photographs and probed the planet’s atmosphere.
1982 (1st March)
The Soviet Venera 13 craft landed on Venus and sent back analysis of the soil.
1983 (4th April)
The US launched a second Space Shuttle, Challenger.
1983 (18th June)
Sally Ride was the first American woman in space after she flew in the Space Shuttle Challenger.
1984 (7th February)
Bruce McCandless and Robert Stewart made the first untethered spacewalks from the Space Shuttle Challenger.
1984 (3rd October)
The US Space Shuttle Atlantis was launched.
1986 (28th January)
The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded seconds after launch killing the seven crew members on board.
1986 (20th February)
The Soviet Union launched the Mir space station.
1986 (9th July)
Voyager 2 came within 81,500 km of Uranus. It returned photographs of the planet.
1988 (19th September)
Israel launched its first satellite, Ofeq 1.
1989 (4th May)
The Magellan space probe was launched to map the surface of Venus.
1989 (25th August)
Voyager 2 flew past Neptune and returned photographs of the planet.

Space Travel Timeline – 1990s

1990 (24th April)
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched to orbit the Earth.
1991 (18th May)
Helen Sharman, Britain’s first astronaut, was a crew member on a Soyuz craft that visited the Mir space station.
1992 (2nd May)
The Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched.
1995 (3rd February)
The Space Shuttle Discovery successfully docked with the Mir space station.
1995 (22nd March)
Cosmonaut Valeriy Polyakov returned to Earth after spending a record 438 days at the Mir space station.
1995 (7th December)
The spacecraft Galileo reached Jupiter and began analysing the planet.
1997 (4th July)
The Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner rover landed on the surface of Mars.
1998 (20th November)
The first part of the International Space Station was launched.

Space Travel Timeline – 2000s

2001 (12th February)
The Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft landed on the surface of the asteroid Eros and sends back images of the asteroid’s surface.
2001 (23rd March)
The Russian space station Mir descended back to Earth.
2001 (6th May)
The World’s first space tourist, American businessman Dennis Tito, returned to Earth after visiting the International Space Station.
2003 (1st February)
The Columbia Space Shuttle disintegrated during re-entry killing the 7 astronauts on board.
2003 (20th May)
SpaceShipOne the World’s first commercial spaceplane, made its first flight into space.
2003 (25th August)
The Spitzer Space Telescope was launched by NASA.
2003 (15th October)
China successfully sent astronaut, Yang Liwei, into space aboard Shenzhou 5. He orbited the Earth before returning.
2004 (4th January)
The robotic rover, Spirit, built by NASA, landed on Mars and began a series of investigation to determine if there has ever been water on Mars.
2004 (25th January)
The robotic rover, Opportunity, joined its twin, Spirit, on Mars to determine if there has ever been water on Mars.
2004 (1st July)
Europe’s Huygens probe reached the surface of Saturn.
2005 (4th July)
The Deep Impact space probe crashed into a comet. It returned photographs and data and made the discovery of water ice in the comet.
2006 (15th January)
The probe Stardust, returned to Earth with samples of cosmic dust.
2008 (25th May)
The unmanned US spacecraft Phoenix, landed on Mars. It began analysing Martian soil.
2008 (27th September)
Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang made the first Chinese spacewalk.
2008 (22nd October)
India sent an unmanned spacecraft into Space. It orbited the Moon before returning.
2009 (6th March)
The Kepler spacecraft was launched on a mission to search for planets outside our solar system.

Space Travel Timeline – 2010s – Present

2010 (8th December)
The commercial company SpaceX launched an unmanned spacecraft, Dragon. It orbited the Earth before returning to Earth.
2011 (18th March)
The space craft Messenger orbited Mercury and began sending back photographs of the planet as well as information about its surface.
2011 (8th July)
The final launch of the Space Shuttle series was made when Atlantis was launched.
2011 (18th July)
Russia placed the Spektr-R, the largest space telescope, into orbit.
2012 (February)
SpaceShipTwo, a commercial spaceplane owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, completed a series of test flights.
2012 (25th August)
Voyager 1 left the Solar System.
2012 (14th October)
Austrian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner made a record jump from the edge of space (24 miles high). During his fall to Earth he broke the sound barrier travelling at a top speed of 833 mph (1340 kmh).
2014 (12th November)
The Philae craft, launched by the European Space Agency, successfully landed on a comet. It sent back photos and information about the composition of the comet.
2015 (6th March)
The spacecraft ‘Dawn’ orbited the dwarf planet Ceres.
2015 (14th July)
The New Horizons craft, launched in 2006 reached Pluto and sent back high resolution images and data about the dwarf planet.
2019 (3rd January)
China’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon.
2019 (10th April)
The Event Horizon Telescope photographed a black hole.
2020 (30th May)
SpaceX became the first private company to send astronauts into space. Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken successfully docked with the International Space Station.
2020 (2nd August)
Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken successfully returned to Earth, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico.


First published 2018; updated and republished Jul 15 2022 @ 10:51 am – Updated – [last-modified]

Harvard Reference for Space Travel Timeline:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2018 – 2022). Space Travel Timeline 1926-Present. Last accessed [date]


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