Our first part of two of some famous milestones in space from the first object into space to where we are today.
June 20, 1944: First man-made object in space
The MW 18014, a V-2 guided ballistic missile, was launched from the Peenemünde Army Research Centre in Nazi Germany. It reached an altitude of 109 miles (176 kilometres) above the Earth’s surface.
Oct. 4, 1957: First artificial satellite in space
Weighing 184 pounds (84 kilograms), Sputnik 1, a metal sphere with a diameter of 23 inches (58 centimetres), was launched by the Soviet Union into an elliptical low-Earth orbit, giving the Russians a first ‘win’ in the Space Race. The spacecraft completed an Earth orbit every 96.2 minutes and transmitted a series of beeps that could be monitored around the world.
Nov. 3, 1957: First animal to orbit the Earth
Laika, a three-year-old stray dog from the streets of Moscow, Russia, was sent up to space in Sputnik 2. Scientists believed animals could help understand the effect of space flight on humans. However, since they hadn’t yet, at the time, figured out the technology to de-orbit, it was a one-way flight. Laika died soon after her flight, possibly from overheating caused by a malfunctioning spacecraft.
Oct. 7, 1959: First photos of another space object
Although no human has ever stood on the far side of the moon, Soviet-era space probe Luna 3 was the first to take photographs of the area. The probe took 29 images; they were of low-resolution but many features could still be identified, such as the Mare Moscoviense (the dark spot in the upper right corner).
March 11, 1960: First solar probe is launched
NASA launched the Pioneer 5 space probe, via a Thor-Able 4 rocket, to investigate the interplanetary space between Earth and Venus. The probe was designed to provide information on solar flares, radiation and interplanetary magnetic fields.
April 12, 1961: First man in space
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin completed an orbit of the Earth on the Vostok 1. This was Gagarin’s first and only spaceflight. The flight lasted 108 minutes and Gagarin parachuted out of the capsule when it was 4.3 miles (seven kilometres) from the planet’s surface. However, he didn’t man the mission – it was controlled either by an auto-pilot mechanism or from the ground.
May 5, 1961: First completed manned spaceflight
American astronaut Alan Shepard piloted the Mercury-Redstone 3 (also called Freedom 7) to demonstrate humans could withstand the high gravitational forces of launch and landing. He completed a 15-minute suborbital flight before landing in the North Atlantic, off the coast of the Bahamas.
June 16, 1963: First woman in space
Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova completed 48 orbits of the Earth in three days. She was awarded the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union” on return and the United Nations Gold Medal of Peace.
March 18, 1965: First spacewalk
Voskhod 2 pilot Alexey Leonov completed a 12-minute spacewalk when he left the craft to attach a camera to the end of the airlock. An endeavour to mark a space milestone, it could have cost Leonov his life since his suit was over-pressurized and he almost suffered a heatstroke. Fortunately, all ended well and the cosmonaut was recorded floating in space before safely re-entering the spacecraft.
Feb. 3, 1966: First soft landing on another celestial body
Russia's Luna 9 accomplished a lunar landing by deploying a landing bag to survive the impact. The unmanned spacecraft landed undamaged near the Oceanus Procellarum and the on-board television camera system took photographs of the surface. This was the first time photos were transmitted to Earth from the surface of another celestial object.
Dec. 25, 1968: First manned mission escapes Earth's orbit
Apollo 8 departed from Earth's orbit at 6:10:17 UTC, going into lunar orbit and circling it 10 times. Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot James Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders marked a list of firsts that include: first humans to see the Earth as a whole, enter the gravitational force of another celestial object, to photograph Earth from space, see the far side of the moon and see an Earthrise.
July 20, 1969: First man on the moon
Apollo 11 Mission Commander Neil Armstrong made history when he set foot on the moon. Along with astronaut Buzz Aldrin (pictured), Armstrong landed the lunar module at 20:18 UTC and, six hours later, stepped outside. He was joined by Aldrin some 20 minutes later. Armstrong and Aldrin also became the first humans to take pictures on and off the moon.
Nov. 17, 1970: First lunar rover lands
Lunokhod 1 was the first of two unmanned rovers launched by the Soviet Union. Weighing 1,667 pounds (756 kilograms), it landed in the Mare Imbrium (also called Sea of Showers or Sea of Rains).
April 19, 1971: First space station
The Soviets launched the first space station of any kind, the Salyut 1 (R), to conduct tests and scientific research in low-Earth orbit. An accident on Soyuz 11 forced the Soviets to halt their space missions as their capsules had to be redesigned. This took too long and it was decided to terminate the Salyut 1 after 175 days.
July 15, 1972: First mission to leave the inner Solar System
The Pioneer 10, launched on March 2, 1972, became the first spacecraft to enter the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It would become the first to fly by Jupiter in December 1973.
July 15, 1975: First international manned mission launches
The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project's aim was the first joint U.S.-Soviet spaceflight. With a mission to develop space rescue capability, the American unnumbered Apollo module and Soviet Soyuz 19 docked with each other in space on July 17, 1975, marking the first such link-up of spacecraft from the two nations. The mission also marked the end of the Space Race.
Oct. 22, 1975: First photos from the surface of another planet
The Venera 9 unmanned Soviet mission, that launched in June 8, 1975, became the first spacecraft to orbit Venus. The craft landed near the Beta Regio area on the planet and took images of the Venusian surface that were transmitted to the Earth.
April 12, 1981: First reusable shuttle launches
NASA’s maiden orbiter, Space Shuttle Columbia, was launched with two crew members – John W. Young and Robert L. Crippen. The mission was called STS-1 and Columbia orbited the Earth 37 times before landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California, U.S., on April 14, 1981, becoming the first reusable, manned spacecraft.
Feb. 7, 1984: First untethered spacewalk
American astronaut Bruce McCandless II used the Manned Maneuvering Unit (an astronaut rocket pack) to venture 98 metres (320 feet) from Space Shuttle Challenger.
Watch out for the second part of these fun facts coming soon