This is a timeline of space exploration including notable achievements and first accomplishments or major events in humanity's exploration of outer space.

Pre-20th century

Date Event leading to space exploration Country Researcher(s) Ref(s)
1610 First telescopic observation of the night sky: discovery of Jupiter's moons, lunar craters and the phases of Venus.
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Republic of Venice
Galileo Galilei
1813 First exposition of the rocket equation based on Newton's third law of motion: Treatise on the Motion of Rockets.
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UK
William Moore
1840 First clear telescopic photograph of another world: the Moon.
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United States
John William Draper
1845 First proper observation of other galaxies which are termed "whirlpool nebulae".
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UK
William Parsons
1861 A Journey Through Space makes first proposal of using rockets for space flight.
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UK
William Leitch
1895 First proposal of space elevator.
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Russia
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

1900–1956

Date Mission success Country Mission name Ref(s)
1903 Publication of Exploration of the Universe with Rocket-Propelled Vehicles[1] that showed physical space exploration was theoretically possible, including the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, multi staged rockets and using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in liquid propellant
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Russia
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky [2]
1914 Goddard files for and is subsequently awarded U.S. patents on multistage and liquid-fueled rockets.
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United States
Robert H. Goddard
1917 First observation of an extrasolar planet (exoplanet) round Van Maanen 2 although it is not recognised as such at the time.
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Netherlands
Adriaan van Maanen
1919 Goddard's widely influential paper "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes" discussed solid- and liquid-fueled rocketry.
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United States
Robert H. Goddard
15 December 1923 Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen ("By Rocket into Planetary Space") self-published after its rejection as a doctoral thesis.
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Germany
Hermann Oberth
1924 Society for Studies of Interplanetary Travel founded.
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USSR
Members include Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Friedrich Zander, Yuri Kondratyuk
16 March 1926 Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket.
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United States
Robert H. Goddard
1927 Verein für Raumschiffahrt (Society for Space Travel) formed; it includes many top European rocket scientists.
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Germany
 
1927 Завоевание межпланетных пространств (The Conquest of Interplanetary Space) discusses rocket mechanics and orbital effects including the gravitational slingshot.
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USSR
Yuri Kondratyuk
1928 Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums – der Raketen-Motor (The Problem of Space Travel – The Rocket Motor) discusses space travel and its potential uses for scientific experiments.
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Germany
Herman Potočnik
11 June 1928 Lippisch Ente, first successful rocket-powered full-size aircraft, as part of Opel-RAK program.
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Germany
Alexander Lippisch (designer), Fritz Stamer (pilot), Fritz von Opel and Max Valier (program heads) [3]
30 September 1929 Opel RAK.1, first successful public flight of a rocket-powered aircraft, as part of Opel-RAK program.
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Germany
Julius Hatry (designer), Fritz von Opel (pilot and program head), Max Valier (program head)
January 1933 British Interplanetary Society founded.
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UK
Philip E. Cleator
September 1933 Establishment of the Soviet rocket research lab Reactive Scientific Research Institute (RNII) by combining the Group for the Study of Reactive Motion (GIRD) with the Gas Dynamics Laboratory (GDL).
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USSR
Key people Sergei Korolev & Valentin Glushko [4]
20 June 1944 V-2 rocket (MW 18014): First artificial object to cross what would later be defined as the Kármán line and hence first spaceflight in history.
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Germany
Wehrmacht
October 1945 Article in Wireless World, "Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?" makes first discussion of geostationary satellites as a means of communication.
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UK
Arthur C. Clarke
10 May 1946 First space research flight (cosmic radiation experiments).
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United States
captured and improved V-2 rocket
24 October 1946 First pictures of Earth from 105 km (65 mi).
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United States
V-2 [5][6]
20 February 1947 First animals in space (fruit flies).
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United States
V-2 [5][7]
24 February 1949 WAC Corporal missile mounted onto a V-2 rocket, producing the first two-stage liquid-fueled rocket, that sets a record altitude of 244 miles (393 km).
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United States
Bumper-5
14 June 1949 Albert II, a rhesus monkey, became the first primate and first mammal in space, flying on a V-2 rocket.
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United States
V-2
20 September 1956 The first rocket to pass the thermopause and enter the exosphere. At 682 miles (1,098 km) altitude and 3,335 miles range, the 3-stage Jupiter-C breaks both records and achieves MACH 18 velocity.
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United States
Jupiter-C (first launch)

1957–1959

Date Mission achievements Country/organization Mission name Ref(s)
21 August 1957 First intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
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USSR
R-7 Semyorka/SS-6 Sapwood
4 October 1957 First artificial satellite.
First man-made signals from space.
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USSR
Sputnik 1
3 November 1957 First mammal in orbit, the dog Laika.
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USSR
Sputnik 2
31 January 1958 Confirmed existence of the Van Allen radiation belt.
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USA (ABMA)
Explorer 1
4 January 1959 First rocket to reach Earth escape velocity; attempt to impact the Moon's surface; missed by 5,995 kilometers (3,237 nmi).
First artificial object in heliocentric orbit.
First detection of solar wind.
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USSR
Luna 1
7 August 1959 First photograph of Earth from orbit.
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USA (NASA)
Explorer 6
13 September 1959 First impact into the Moon.
First delivery of national pennants to a celestial body.
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USSR
Luna 2
4 October 1959 First photos of another world from space: the far side of the Moon.
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USSR
Luna 3

1960–1969

Date Mission success Country/organization Mission name Ref(s)
March 1960 First solar probe.
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USA (NASA)
Pioneer 5
19 August 1960 First plants and animals to return alive from Earth orbit.
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USSR
Sputnik 5
10 October 1960 First probe launched to Mars (failed to reach target).
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USSR
Mars 1M
31 January 1961 First Hominidae or great ape in space, first tasks performed in space; Ham (chimpanzee).
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USA (NASA)
M-R 2
12 February 1961 First launch from Earth orbit of upper stage into a heliocentric orbit.
First mid-course corrections.
First spin-stabilisation.
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USSR
Venera 1
12 April 1961 First human spaceflight (Yuri Gagarin).
First human-crewed orbital flight.
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USSR
Vostok 1 [8][9]
5 May 1961 First human-piloted space flight (Alan Shepard).
First human-crewed suborbital flight.
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USA
Freedom 7
19 May 1961 First planetary flyby (within 100,000 km of Venus – no data returned).
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USSR
Venera 1
6 August 1961 First crewed space flight lasting over twenty four hours by Gherman Titov, who is also the first to suffer from space sickness.
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USSR
Vostok 2
7 March 1962 First orbital solar observatory.
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USA (NASA)
OSO-1
26 April 1962 First spacecraft to impact the far side of the Moon.
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USA (NASA)
Ranger 4 [10]
11 August 1962 First dual crewed spaceflight.
First communication between two crewed space vehicles in orbit.
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USSR
Vostok 3 & Vostok 4
18 August 1962 First auroral research rocket launched into the ionosphere.
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Norway
Ferdinand 1
November 1962 First Mars flyby (11,000 km) but contact was lost.
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USSR
Mars 1
14 December 1962 First successful planetary flyby (Venus closest approach 34,773 kilometers).
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USA (NASA)
Mariner 2
16 June 1963 First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova).
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USSR
Vostok 6
19 July 1963 First reusable crewed spacecraft (suborbital).
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USA (NASA)
X-15 Flight 90
12 October 1964 First multi-person crew (3) in orbit.
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USSR
Voskhod 1
18 March 1965 First space walk/extra-vehicular activity (Alexei Leonov).
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USSR
Voskhod 2
March 1965 First crewed spacecraft to change orbit.
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USA (NASA)
Gemini 3
14 July 1965 First Mars flyby (closest approach 9,846 kilometers; returned pictures).
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USA (NASA)
Mariner 4
14 July 1965 First close-up photographs of another planet: Mars.
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USA (NASA)
Mariner 4
15 December 1965 First orbital rendezvous (parallel flight, no docking).
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USA (NASA)
Gemini 6A/Gemini 7
3 February 1966 First soft landing on another world (the Moon).
First photos from another world.
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USSR
Luna 9
1 March 1966 First impact into another planet (Venus).
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USSR
Venera 3
16 March 1966 First orbital docking between two spacecraft.
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USA (NASA)
Gemini 8/Agena target vehicle
3 April 1966 First artificial satellite around another world (the Moon).
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USSR
Luna 10
August 1966 First probe to map the Moon.
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USA
Lunar Orbiter 1
30 October 1967 First automated (crewless) docking.
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USSR
Cosmos 186/Cosmos 188
September 1968 First animals and plants to leave Earth orbit, to travel to and circle the Moon, and the first Moon mission with passengers to return safely to Earth.
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USSR
Zond 5
7 December 1968 First orbital ultraviolet observatory.
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USA (NASA)
OAO-2
21 December 1968 First piloted orbital mission of another celestial body (Moon).
First Trans-Earth injection.
First human space mission to enter the gravitational influence of another celestial body (25 December).
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USA (NASA)
Apollo 8
January 1969 First docking between two crewed spacecraft in Earth orbit, also the first crew exchange in space.
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USSR
Soyuz 4 and Soyuz 5
January 1969 First to parachute in Venus's atmosphere, lost contact before landing.
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USSR
Venera 5
23 May 1969 First docking of two crewed spacecraft around another celestial body.
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USA (NASA)
Apollo 10
20 July 1969 First human on the Moon, and first space launch from a celestial body other than the Earth.
First sample return from the Moon.
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USA (NASA)
Apollo 11
August 4, 1969 First photograph of Phobos from Space.
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USA (NASA)
Mariner 7
19 November 1969 First rendezvous on the surface of a celestial body.
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USA (NASA)
Apollo 12/Surveyor 3

1970–1980

Date Mission success Country/organization Mission name Ref(s)
24 September 1970 First automatic sample return from the Moon.
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USSR
Luna 16
17 November 1970 First lunar rover.
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USSR
Lunokhod 1
12 December 1970 First X-ray orbital observatory.
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USA (NASA)
Uhuru (satellite)
15 December 1970 First soft landing on another planet (Venus).
First signals from another planet.
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USSR
Venera 7
19 April 1971 First space station.
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USSR
Salyut 1
June 1971 First crewed orbital observatory.
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USSR
Orion 1
14 November 1971 First to maintain orbit around another planet (Mars).
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USA (NASA)
Mariner 9
27 November 1971 First impact into Mars.
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USSR
Mars 2
2 December 1971 First soft Mars landing.
First signals from Mars surface.
First photograph from Martian surface.
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USSR
Mars 3
3 March 1972 First human made object sent on escape trajectory away from the Sun.
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USA (NASA)
Pioneer 10
15 July 1972 First mission to enter the asteroid belt and leave inner Solar System.
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USA (NASA)
Pioneer 10
15 November 1972 First orbital gamma ray observatory.
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USA (NASA)
SAS 2
14 May 1973 Launch of Skylab - first American space station.
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USA (NASA)
Skylab [11]
3 December 1973 First Jupiter flyby (at 130,000 km).
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USA (NASA)
Pioneer 10
5 February 1974 Venus flyby at 5768 kilometers, first gravitational assist manoeuvre.
First photograph of Venus from Space.
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USA (NASA)
Mariner 10
29 March 1974 First Mercury flyby at 703 kilometers.
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USA (NASA)
Mariner 10
15 July 1975 First multinational crewed mission.
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USSR
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USA (NASA)
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
20 October 1975 First orbit around Venus.
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USSR
Venera 9
22 October 1975 First successful photos from the surface of another planet (Venus).
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USSR
Venera 9
17 April 1976 Very close flyby of the Sun (43.432 million kilometers).
Maximum speed record among spacecraft (252,792 km/h).
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USA (NASA)
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West Germany (DFVLR)
Helios 2
20 July 1976 First successful photos and soil samples from the surface of Mars.
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USA (NASA)
Viking Lander
26 January 1978 First real time remotely operated ultraviolet orbital observatory.
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USA (NASA)
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ESA
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UK (SERC)
International Ultraviolet Explorer
4 December 1978 First extended (multi-year) orbital exploration of Venus (from 1978 to 1992).
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USA (NASA)
Pioneer Venus Orbiter
5 March 1979 Jupiter flyby (closest approach 349,000 km)
Encounters with five Jovian moons
Discovery of volcanism on Io.
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USA (NASA)
Voyager 1
1 September 1979 First Saturn flyby at 21,000 km, first photographs of Titan from space.
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USA (NASA)
Pioneer 11
12 November 1980 Saturn flyby (closest approach 124,000 km), close encounter of Titan and encounters with a dozen others.
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USA (NASA)
Voyager 1

1981–1999

Date Mission success Country/organization Mission name Ref(s)
12 April 1981 First Reusable crewed orbital spacecraft.
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USA (NASA)
STS-1
1 March 1982 First Venus soil samples and sound recording of another world.
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USSR
Venera 13
19 August 1982 First mixed gender crew aboard space station, and first woman, Svetlana Savitskaya, on space station.
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USSR
Salyut 7
25 January 1983 First Infrared orbital observatory.
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USA (NASA)
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UK (SERC)
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Netherlands (NIVR)
IRAS
13 June 1983 First spacecraft beyond the orbit of Neptune (first spacecraft to pass beyond all Solar System planets).
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USA (NASA)
Pioneer 10
7 February 1984 First untethered spacewalk, Bruce McCandless II.
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USA (NASA)
STS-41-B
25 July 1984 First spacewalk by woman, Svetlana Savitskaya.
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USSR
Salyut 7
11 June 1985 First balloon deployed on another planet (Venus).
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USSR
Vega 1
24 January 1986 First Uranus flyby (closest approach 81,500 kilometers (44,000 nmi)).
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USA (NASA)
Voyager 2
28 January 1986 First major American space loss, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, an explosion soon after liftoff which killed, among others, Christa McAuliffe, a high school teacher.
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USA (NASA)
STS-51-L
19 February 1986 First consistently inhabited long-term research space station.
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USSR
Mir
4 March 1986 First flyby of a comet (Halley's Comet, 8,889 kilometers).
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USSR
Vega 1 & Vega 2
13 March 1986 First close up observations of a comet (Halley's Comet, 596 kilometers).
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ESA
Giotto
July 1988 First suspected detection of an exoplanet Gamma Cephei Ab, although the discovery was retracted in 1994, and not confirmed until 2002.

Team of astronomers, led by Bruce Campbell, Gordon Walker, and Stephenson Yang; existence announced by Anthony Lawton & P. Wright in 1989

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Canada
8 August 1989 First astrometric satellite
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ESA
Hipparcos
25 August 1989 First Neptune flyby (closest approach at 29,240 km).
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USA (NASA)
Voyager 2
18 November 1989 First orbital cosmic microwave observatory
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USA (NASA)
COBE
14 February 1990 First photograph of the whole Solar System
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USA (NASA)
Voyager 1 [12]
24 April 1990 Optical orbital observatory
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USA (NASA)
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ESA
Hubble Space Telescope
2 July 1990 First time a spacecraft coming from deep space uses the Earth for a gravity-assist manoeuvre
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ESA
Giotto [13]
15 September 1990 Extended (multi-year) orbital exploration of Venus.
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USA (NASA)
Magellan
21 October 1991 First asteroid flyby (951 Gaspra closest approach 1,600 km).
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USA (NASA)
Galileo
1992 First confirmed observation of an exoplanet
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Canada
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Poland
Aleksander Wolszczan & Dale Frail
8 February 1992 First polar orbit around the Sun
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USA (NASA)
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ESA
Ulysses
22 March 1995 Record longest duration spaceflight (437.7 days) set by Valeri Polyakov.
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Russia (FKA)
Mir
7 December 1995 First orbit of Jupiter
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USA (NASA)
Galileo
7 December 1995 First mission into the atmosphere of a gas giant (Jupiter).
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USA (NASA)
Galileo's atmospheric entry probe
12 February 1997 First orbital radio observatory.
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Japan (ISAS)
HALCA
4 July 1997 First operational rover on another planet (Mars).
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USA (NASA)
Mars Pathfinder
20 November 1998 First multinational space station.
Largest artificial object built in space to date.
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Russia (FKA)
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USA (NASA)
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Europe (ESA)
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Japan (JAXA)
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Canada (CSA)
International Space Station

2000–2021

Date Mission success Country/organization Mission name Ref(s)
14 February 2000 First orbiting of an asteroid (433 Eros).
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USA (NASA)
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ESA
NEAR Shoemaker
12 February 2001 First landing on an asteroid (433 Eros).
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USA (NASA)
NEAR Shoemaker
12 February 2004 First human spaceflight launched by a private company (suborbital).
First private astronaut (Mike Melvill).
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USA (Mojave Aerospace Ventures)
SpaceShipOne Flight 15P
1 July 2004 First orbit of Saturn.
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USA (NASA)
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ESA
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Italy (ASI)
Cassini–Huygens
8 September 2004 First sample return beyond lunar orbit (solar wind).
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USA (NASA)
Genesis
14 January 2005 First soft landing on Titan.
First soft landing in the outer Solar System.
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ESA
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USA (NASA)
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Italy (ASI)
Cassini–Huygens
4 July 2005 First spacecraft to impact a comet (Tempel 1).
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USA (NASA)
Deep Impact
19 November 2005 First asteroid ascent (25143 Itokawa).
First interplanetary escape without undercarriage cutoff.[clarification needed]
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Japan (JAXA)
Hayabusa
15 January 2006 First sample return from comet (81P/Wild).
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USA (NASA)
Stardust
8 November 2008 Discovery of lunar water in the form of ice.
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INDIA (ISRO)
Chandrayaan-1
6 March 2009 First space telescope designated to search for Earth-like exoplanets.
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USA (NASA)
Kepler Mission [14]
13 June 2010 First sample return from asteroid (25143 Itokawa).
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Japan (JAXA)
Hayabusa
18 March 2011 First orbit of Mercury.
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USA (NASA)
MESSENGER
16 July 2011 First orbit of giant asteroid Vesta.
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USA (NASA)
Dawn
25 August 2012 First manmade probe in interstellar space.
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USA (NASA)
Voyager 1
12 November 2014 First artificial probe to make a planned and soft landing on a comet (67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko).
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ESA
Rosetta [15]
6 March 2015 First orbit of dwarf planet (Ceres).
First spacecraft to orbit two separate celestial bodies.
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USA (NASA)
Dawn
July 2015 First flyby of dwarf planet (Pluto).
Last original encounter with one of the nine major planets recognized in 1981.
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USA (NASA)
New Horizons
10 August 2015 First food grown in space eaten (lettuce).
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USA (NASA)
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Japan (JAXA)
International Space Station [16]
23 November 2015 First propulsive landing of a rocket after sending something into space (suborbital).
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USA (Blue Origin)
New Shepard 2 [17]
21 December 2015 First propulsive landing of an orbital rocket.
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USA (SpaceX)
Falcon 9 first-stage landing tests
19 October 2017 First known interstellar object detected passing through the Solar System.
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USA Haleakalā Observatory
Oumuamua
21 September 2018 First operational rover on asteroid (162173 Ryugu).
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Japan (JAXA)
Hayabusa2 [18]
1 January 2019 First contact binary explored by spacecraft (486958 Arrokoth).
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USA (NASA)
New Horizons [19]
3 January 2019 First soft landing on the far side of the Moon.

First germination of seeds on another celestial body.

China China (CNSA) Chang'e 4 [20]
10 April 2019 First direct photograph of a black hole and its vicinity.
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USA (NASA)
Event Horizon Telescope [21]
30 May 2020 First orbital human spaceflight launched by a private company.
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USA (SpaceX)
SpaceX Demo-2 [22]
19 April 2021 First aerodynamically-powered flight on another celestial body (Mars).
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USA (NASA)
Ingenuity [23]
26 September 2022 First attempt to deflect an asteroid.

First spacecraft to impact an asteroid moon (Dimorphos).

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USA (NASA)
DART

See also

References

  1. ^ Russian title Issledovaniye mirovykh prostranstv reaktivnymi priborami (Исследование мировых пространств реактивными приборами)
  2. ^ Siddiqi, Asif (2000). Challenge to Apollo : the Soviet Union and the space race, 1945-1974 (PDF). Washington, D.C: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA History Div. p. 1. Retrieved 24 July 2022.
  3. ^ "Das RAK-Protokoll", a 25 minutes documentary on the Opel RAK program https://opel-tv-footage.com/v/The%20RAK%20Protocoll?p=4&c=86&l=1
  4. ^ Chertok, Boris (31 January 2005). Rockets and People (Volume 1 ed.). National Aeronautics and Space Administration. p. 9. Retrieved 24 July 2022.
  5. ^ a b "Chronology: Cowboys to V-2s to the Space Shuttle to lasers". Wsmr.army.mil. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2013-01-17.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Part 1". History.nasa.gov. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Yuri Gagarin and Vostok 1, the First Human Spaceflight". Planetary Society. Retrieved 10 July 2022.
  9. ^ "Yuri Gagarin: Who was the first person in space?". BBC. Retrieved 13 July 2022.
  10. ^ "Discussion". Space Policy. 14 (1): 6. 1998-02-01. doi:10.1016/S0265-9646(97)00038-6.
  11. ^ Whiting, Melanie (2018-05-14). "Skylab: America's First Space Station". NASA. Retrieved 2021-02-03.
  12. ^ "Voyagers". Archived from the original on 2009-03-31. Retrieved 2009-07-21.
  13. ^ "Giotto overview". European Space Agency. Retrieved 2019-07-11.
  14. ^ "NASA launches Kepler Mission: Search for Earth-like worlds". Spacechornology.com. Archived from the original on 22 January 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  15. ^ Chang, Kenneth (November 12, 2014). "European Space Agency's Spacecraft Lands on Comet's Surface". The New York Times. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  16. ^ "Meals Ready to Eat: Expedition 44 Crew Members Sample Leafy Greens Grown on Space Station". Nasa. 7 July 2015.
  17. ^ Foust, Jeff (24 November 2015). "Blue Origin Flies — and Lands — New Shepard Suborbital Spacecraft". Space News. Retrieved 1 December 2015. We’re going to take that same exact architecture that was demonstrated and use it on our the booster stage of our orbital vehicle
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