Timeline of the Space Race

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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.

Contents

This list is limited to first achievements by the USSR and USA which were important during the Space Race in terms of public perception and/or technical innovation. This excludes first uses of specific on-board equipment and new scientific discoveries, or achievements by other countries.

Beginning

DateCountryAchievementMission / Vehicle
1955 July 29 Flag of the United States.svg The United States announces their intention to launch an artificial satellite [1] during the International Geophysical Year (1 July 1957 to 31 December 1958)./
1955 August 30 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg In the Soviet Union, the commission approved launching a 1 ton satellite using the R-7 ICBM. [1] /

1957–1959

First artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 (replica) Sputnik asm.jpg
First artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 (replica)
First photograph of far side of the Moon, Luna 3 Luna 3 moon.jpg
First photograph of far side of the Moon, Luna 3
DateCountryAchievementMission / Vehicle
1957 August 21 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM); fully operational September 1957 R-7 Semyorka
1957 October 4 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First artificial satellite
First man-made signals from orbit
Sputnik 1
1957 November 3 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First mammal (the dog Laika) in orbit around Earth. Sputnik 2
1958 March 17 Flag of the United States.svg First solar-powered satellite Vanguard 1
1959 January 2 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg 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 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First spacecraft in heliocentric orbit Luna 1
1959 February 28 Flag of the United States.svg First satellite in a polar orbit Discoverer 1
1959 August 7 Flag of the United States.svg First photograph of Earth from orbit Explorer 6
1959 September 14 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First hard landing on another celestial body (the Moon) Luna 2
1959 October 7 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg 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 Earth to retrieve the photos
Luna 3

1960–1969

First human in space, Yuri Gagarin Yuri Gagarin in Sweden, 1964 (cropped) (2).jpg
First human in space, Yuri Gagarin
First humans on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (behind camera) Aldrin Looks Back at Tranquility Base - GPN-2000-001102.jpg
First humans on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong (behind camera)
DateCountryAchievementMission / Vehicle
1960 August 11 Flag of the United States.svg First satellite recovered intact from orbit Discoverer 13
1960 August 18 Flag of the United States.svg First spy photography from space
First aerial recovery of an object (the film) returning from Earth orbit
Discoverer 14
1960 August 19 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First animals and plants returned alive from space (the dogs Belka and Strelka)
First capsule recovered from orbit
Korabl-Sputnik 2 (aka Sputnik 5)
1961 January 31 Flag of the United States.svg First great ape or Hominidae in space, Ham, a chimpanzee Mercury-Redstone 2
1961 February 12 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First launch from Earth orbit of upper stage into a heliocentric orbit
First mid-course corrections
First spin-stabilisation
Venera 1
1961 April 12 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First human spaceflight mission (Yuri Gagarin) [2]
First orbital flight of a manned vehicle
Vostok 1
1961 May 5 Flag of the United States.svg First pilot-controlled space flight (Alan Shepard) Freedom 7
1961 May 19 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First planetary flyby (Venus), although contact was lostVenera 1
1961 August 6 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First crewed mission lasting a full day (Gherman Titov). Vostok 2
1962 August 12 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First dual crewed spaceflight (Andriyan Nikolayev and Pavel Popovich)
First spacecraft-to-spacecraft radio contact
First simultaneous flight of crewed spacecraft.
First person to float freely in microgravity.
Vostok 3 / Vostok 4
1962 December 14 Flag of the United States.svg First successful planetary flyby mission (Venus). Mariner 2
1963 June 16 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova)
First civilian in space
Vostok 6
1963 June 19 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First Mars flyby, although contact was lost Mars 1
1963 July 19 Flag of the United States.svg First reusable piloted spacecraft and the first spaceplane (suborbital) X-15 Flight 90
1963 July 26 Flag of the United States.svg First geosynchronous satellite Syncom 2
1964 August 19 Flag of the United States.svg First geostationary satellite Syncom 3
1964 October 12 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First spaceflight to carry more than one crewman into orbit (3) Voskhod 1
1965 March 18 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First extra-vehicular activity ("space walk") Voskhod 2
1965 March 23 Flag of the United States.svg First piloted spacecraft orbit change Gemini 3
1965 July 14 Flag of the United States.svg First successful Mars flyby mission Mariner 4
1965 December 15 Flag of the United States.svg First rendezvous of manned spacecraft Gemini 6A & Gemini 7
1966 February 3 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First soft landing on another celestial body (the Moon)
First photos from another celestial body
Luna 9
1966 March 1 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First hard landing on another planet (Venus) Venera 3
1966 March 16 Flag of the United States.svg First spacecraft docking Gemini 8 / ATV
1966 April 3 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First artificial satellite to orbit another celestial body (the Moon) Luna 10
1966 September 12 Flag of the United States.svg First direct-ascent (first orbit) rendezvous Gemini 11 / ATV
1967 October 18 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First in situ analysis of the atmosphere of another planet (Venus) Venera 4
1967 October 30 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First docking of two remote-controlled spacecraft Cosmos 186 / Cosmos 188
1968 September 14–21 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First return to Earth after circling the Moon
First life forms to circle the Moon (returned safely)
Zond 5
1968 December 21 Flag of the United States.svg 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 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First parachute to be deployed on another planet (Venus) Venera 5
1969 January 16 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First crew exchange in space

First docking of two manned spacecraft

Soyuz 4 /

Soyuz 5

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

1970–1979

First lunar rover, Lunokhod 1 FP2A3576 (23497689198).jpg
First lunar rover, Lunokhod 1
First spacecraft on an escape trajectory away from the Sun, Pioneer 10 Pioneer10-plaque tilt.jpg
First spacecraft on an escape trajectory away from the Sun, Pioneer 10
First view and clear photograph taken of and from the surface of Venus, Venera 9 Foto de Venera 9.png
First view and clear photograph taken of and from the surface of Venus, Venera 9
DateCountryAchievementMission / Vehicle
1970 September 24 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First robotic automatic sample return from another celestial body (the Moon) Luna 16
1970 November 23 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First lunar rover (remote-controlled) and first rover on another celestial body (the Moon) Lunokhod 1
1970 December 15 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First soft landing on another planet (Venus)
First signals from another planet
Venera 7
1971 April 19 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First human-crewed space station launched Salyut 1
1971 June 29 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First human-crewed orbital observatory (Orion 1) Soyuz 11 / Salyut 1
1971 July 31 Flag of the United States.svg First human-driven lunar rover, the Lunar Roving Vehicle Apollo 15
1971 November 14 Flag of the United States.svg First spacecraft to orbit another planet (Mars) Mariner 9
1971 November 27 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First hard landing on Mars Mars 2
1971 December 2 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First soft Mars landing
First signals from Mars surface
Mars 3
1972 March 3 Flag of the United States.svg First spacecraft sent on escape trajectory away from the Sun Pioneer 10
1972 July 15 Flag of the United States.svg First mission to enter the asteroid belt and leave inner Solar System Pioneer 10
1973 December 3 Flag of the United States.svg First Jupiter flybyPioneer 10
1974 March 29 Flag of the United States.svg First Mercury flyby Mariner 10
1975 July 15 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
Flag of the United States.svg
First multinational human-crewed mission [lower-alpha 1] Soyuz 19
Apollo–Soyuz Test Project
1975 October 20 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First spacecraft to orbit another planet (Venus) (the orbiter)
First view and clear photograph from and of the surface of another planet (the lander)
Venera 9
1979 September 1 Flag of the United States.svg First Saturn flyby Pioneer 11

1980–1989

First Space Shuttle Space Shuttle Columbia launching cropped 2.jpg
First Space Shuttle
DateCountryAchievementMission / Vehicle
1981 April 12 Flag of the United States.svg First spaceplane in orbit, the Space Shuttle (test flight) STS-1
1984 February 7 Flag of the United States.svg First untethered spacewalk, Bruce McCandless II STS-41-B
1985 June 11 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First aerostat balloon in the atmosphere of Venus Vega 1 probe
1986 January 24 Flag of the United States.svg First Uranus flyby Voyager 2
1986 February 19 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg First module of the first modular space station launched, marking the start of the orbital assembly Mir Core Module
1989 August 25 Flag of the United States.svg First Neptune flyby Voyager 2
1990 February 11 Flag of the Soviet Union.svg 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

Notes

  1. 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.

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References

  1. 1 2 "Korolev and Freedom of Space: 14 February 1955 – 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 Newsround. April 12, 2021. Retrieved July 13, 2022.