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This is a timeline of achievements in Soviet and United States spaceflight, spanning the Cold War era of nationalistic competition known as the Space Race.
For more extensive lists, see Timeline of Solar System exploration and Timeline of space exploration.
This list is limited to (both have to be true):

And it has to have been important at the time in one of the following senses:

Among other things, this excludes first uses of specific on-board equipment and new scientific discoveries, which would make the list considerably longer.

The first spacecraft was a V-2 rocket, launched in June 1944, which reached an altitude of 189 km, well over the 100 km Kármán line, which is regarded as the boundary of outer space. However, this was a German craft and not part of the space race (as meant in this article).
On 29 July 1955, the United States announced its intention to launch an artificial satellite[1] during the International Geophysical Year (1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958). Four days later, the Soviet Union announced its intention to do the same and was the first to achieve this goal on 4 October 1957, marking the start of the space race.
After the first multinational crewed mission in July 1975, the competition continued to exist, but transitioned in intensity from a state of intense competition to one of cooperation by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War on 26 December 1991.
Until 1989, space exploration was almost exclusively the domain of the USA and the USSR, apart from (taking part in) solar observations in the 1970's (by Germany and the EU) and the Halley Armada in the 1980s (by Japan and the EU). After that, more countries and cooperations followed, mostly by the USA, the EU and separate European countries and Japan, with the biggest cooperation being the International Space Station.

1957–1959

First artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 (replica).
First artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 (replica).
First photograph of far side of the Moon, Luna 3.
First photograph of far side of the Moon, Luna 3.
Date Country Achievement Mission / Vehicle
1957 August 21 Soviet Union First intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); fully operational September 1957 R-7 Semyorka
1957 October 4 Soviet Union First artificial satellite
First man-made signals from orbit
Sputnik 1
1957 November 3 Soviet Union First mammal (the dog Laika) in orbit around Earth. Sputnik 2
1958 January 31 United States Discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt. Explorer 1
1958 March 17 United States First solar-powered satellite Vanguard 1
1959 January 2 Soviet Union First lunar spacecraft (fly-by)
First rocket engine restart in Earth orbit
First spacecraft to leave Earth's orbit
First spacecraft on an escape trajectory from Earth
Luna 1
1959 January 4 Soviet Union First spacecraft in heliocentric orbit Luna 1
1959 February 28 United States First satellite in a polar orbit Discoverer 1
1959 August 7 United States First photograph of Earth from orbit Explorer 6
1959 September 14 Soviet Union First hard landing on another celestial body (Moon) Luna 2
1959 October 7 Soviet Union First three-axis stabilised spacecraft
First photos of far side of the Moon, covering 70% of the surface invisible from Earth
First automated on board development of photographic film and conversion to radio signals
First gravity assist ('sling shot'), returning the spacecraft to the Earth to retrieve the photos
Luna 3

1960–1969

First human in space, Yuri Gagarin.
First human in space, Yuri Gagarin.
First humans on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (behind camera).
First humans on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (behind camera).
Date Country Achievement Mission / Vehicle
1960 August 11 United States First satellite recovered intact from orbit Discoverer 13
1960 August 18 United States First spy photography from space
First aerial recovery of an object (the film) returning from Earth orbit
Discoverer 14
1960 August 19 Soviet Union First animals and plants returned alive from space (Belka and Strelka)
First capsule recovered from orbit
Korabl-Sputnik 2 (aka Sputnik 5)
1961 January 31 United States First great ape or Hominidae in space, Ham the chimpanzee Mercury-Redstone 2
1961 February 12 Soviet Union First launch from Earth orbit of upper stage into a heliocentric orbit
First mid-course corrections
First spin-stabilisation
Venera 1
1961 April 12 Soviet Union First human spaceflight mission (Yuri Gagarin)[2]
First orbital flight of a manned vehicle
Vostok 1
1961 May 5 United States First pilot-controlled space flight (Alan Shepard) Freedom 7
1961 May 19 Soviet Union First planetary flyby (Venus), although contact was lost Venera 1
1961 August 6 Soviet Union First crewed mission lasting a full day (Gherman Titov). Vostok 2
1962 August 12 Soviet Union First dual crewed spaceflight (Andriyan Nikolayev and Pavel Popovich)
First spacecraft-to-spacecraft radio contact
First simultaneous flight of crewed spacecraft
Vostok 3 / Vostok 4
1962 December 14 United States First successful planetary flyby mission (Venus). Mariner 2
1963 June 16 Soviet Union First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova)
First civilian in space
Vostok 6
1963 June 19 Soviet Union First Mars flyby, although contact was lost Mars 1
1963 July 19 United States First reusable piloted spacecraft and the first spaceplane (suborbital) X-15 Flight 90
1963 July 26 United States First geosynchronous satellite Syncom 2
1964 August 19 United States First geostationary satellite Syncom 3
1965 March 18 Soviet Union First extra-vehicular activity ("space walk") Voskhod 2
1965 March 23 United States First piloted spacecraft orbit change Gemini 3
1965 July 14 United States First successful Mars flyby mission Mariner 4
1966 February 3 Soviet Union First soft landing on another celestial body (Moon)
First photos from another celestial body
Luna 9
1966 March 1 Soviet Union First hard landing on another planet (Venus) Venera 3
1966 March 16 United States First spacecraft docking Gemini 8 / ATV
1966 April 3 Soviet Union First artificial satellite to orbit another celestial body (the Moon) Luna 10
1966 September 12 United States First direct-ascent (first orbit) rendezvous Gemini 11 / ATV
1967 October 18 Soviet Union First in situ analysis of the atmosphere of another planet (Venus) Venera 4
1967 October 30 Soviet Union First docking of two remote-controlled spacecraft Cosmos 186 / Cosmos 188
1968 September 14–21 Soviet Union First return to Earth after circling the Moon
First life forms to circle the Moon (returned safely)
Zond 5
1968 December 21 United States First return to Earth after orbiting the Moon
First human spaceflight mission to enter the gravitational influence of another celestial body
Apollo 8
1969 January Soviet Union First parachute to be deployed on another planet (Venus) Venera 5
1969 January 16 Soviet Union First crew exchange in space

First docking of two manned spacecraft

Soyuz 4 /

Soyuz 5

1969 July 20 United States First humans on the Moon
First space launch from another celestial body
First sample return from the Moon
Apollo 11
1969 November 19 United States First precisely targeted piloted landing on the Moon (Surveyor 3 site) Apollo 12

1970–1979

First lunar rover, Lunokhod 1.
First lunar rover, Lunokhod 1.
First spacecraft on an escape trajectory away from the Sun, Pioneer 10.
First spacecraft on an escape trajectory away from the Sun, Pioneer 10.
First photograph taken of and from the surface of Venus, Venera 9.
First photograph taken of and from the surface of Venus, Venera 9.
Date Country Achievement Mission / Vehicle
1970 September 24 Soviet Union First robotic automatic sample return from another celestial body (the Moon) Luna 16
1970 November 23 Soviet Union First lunar rover (remote-controlled) and first rover on another celestial body (the Moon) Lunokhod 1
1970 December 15 Soviet Union First soft landing on another planet (Venus)
First signals from another planet
Venera 7
1971 April 19 Soviet Union First human-crewed space station launched Salyut 1
1971 June 29 Soviet Union First human-crewed orbital observatory (Orion 1) Soyuz 11 / Salyut 1
1971 July 31 United States First human-driven lunar rover Apollo 15
1971 November 14 United States First spacecraft to orbit another planet (Mars) Mariner 9
1971 November 27 Soviet Union First hard landing on Mars Mars 2
1971 December 2 Soviet Union First soft Mars landing
First signals from Mars surface
Mars 3
1972 March 3 United States First spacecraft sent on escape trajectory away from the Sun Pioneer 10
1972 July 15 United States First mission to enter the asteroid belt and leave inner Solar System Pioneer 10
1973 December 3 United States First Jupiter flyby Pioneer 10
1974 March 29 United States First Mercury flyby Mariner 10
1975 July 15 Soviet Union
United States
First multinational human-crewed mission Soyuz 19
Apollo–Soyuz Test Project
1975 October 20 Soviet Union First spacecraft to orbit another planet (Venus) (the orbiter)
First photograph from and of the surface of another planet (the lander)
Venera 9
1979 September 1 United States First Saturn flyby Pioneer 11

1980–1989

First space shuttle
First space shuttle
Date Country Achievement Mission / Vehicle
1981 April 12 United States First spaceplane in orbit, the Space Shuttle (test flight) STS-1
1984 February 7 United States First untethered spacewalk, Bruce McCandless II STS-41-B
1985 June 11 Soviet Union First aerostat balloon in the atmosphere of Venus Vega 1 probe
1986 January 24 United States First Uranus flyby Voyager 2
1986 February 19 Soviet Union First module of the first modular space station launched, marking the start of the orbital assembly Mir Core Module
1989 August 25 United States First Neptune flyby Voyager 2
1990 February 11 Soviet Union First consistently inhabited long-term research space station Mir

On 1991 December 31, the United Nations accepted the dissolution of the USSR, which meant the end of the space race.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Korolev and Freedom of Space: 14 February 1990 – 4 October 1957". NASA. Archived from the original on October 7, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2007.
  2. ^ "Yuri Gagarin: Who was the first person in space?". BBC. Retrieved July 13, 2022.