Timeline of Space Exploration
1957 Oct. 4 - USSR launches Sputnik 1.
Nov. 3 - USSR launches Sputnik 2 which carried a small dog named Laika into orbit.
1958 Jan. 31 - Explorer 1, the first American satellite to reach orbit, is launched. It carried scientific equipment that lead to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt.
Mar. 5 - Explorer 2 is launced but it fails to reach orbit.
Mar. 17 - The Vanguard 1 satellite is launched. It continues to function for 3 years.
May 15 - Sputnik 3 is launched.
Oct. 1 - The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is formed, it replaces the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA).
Oct. 11 - Pioneer 1 is launched to a height of 70,700 miles.
1959 Jan. 2 - Luna 1 is launched by the USSR. It is the first man made object to orbit the Sun.
Mar. 3 - Pioneer 4 is launched on a Earth-Moon trajectory. It passed within 37,000 miles of the Moon before falling into a solar orbit.
Apr. 2 - The "Mercury Seven" astronauts are selected by NASA.
Sep. 12 - Luna 2 is launched. It impacts the Moon on September 13, becoming the first man-made object to do so.
Oct. 4 - Luna 3 orbits the Moon and photographs 70% of its surface.
1960 Apr. 1 - Tiros 1, the first successful weather satellite, is launched.
Aug. 18 - The US launches Discoverer XIV, its first camera equipped spy satellite.
Nov. 8 - John F. Kennedy is elected the 35th President of the United States.
1961 Apr. 12 - Yuri Gagarin orbits the Earth once and becomes the first man in space.
May 5 - Alan B. Shepard becomes the first American in space.
May 25 - President John F. Kennedy addresses Congress and challenges the nation to go to the Moon before the end of the decade.
Jul. 21 - Gus Grissom is launched on a sub-orbital flight. His Liberty-Bell capsule is lost when it fills with water and sinks after splashdown.
Aug. 6 - Gherman Titov spends a day in space aboard Vostok 2.
Dec. 7 - NASA announces the Gemini Program.
1962 Feb. 20 - John Glenn orbits the Earth three times.
May 24 - Scott Carpenter repeats John Glenn's flight aboard "Aurora 7".
Sep. 12 - President Kennedy gives a speech at Rice University reaffirming the importance of the Moon program.
Sep. 17 - NASA selects its second group of astronauts.
Oct. 3 - Walter Schirra orbits the Earth six times.
Dec. 14 - Mariner 2 flies past Venus and enters a solar orbit.
1963 May 15 - L. Gordon Cooper spends 34 hours in space. He is the last American to fly in space alone.
Jun. 16 - Cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space.
Oct. 17 - A third group of NASA astronauts is selected.
Nov. 22 - President Kennedy is assassinated.
1964 Jul. 31 - Ranger 7 transmits the first close range images of the Moon.
Oct. 31 - Astronaut Theodore Freeman dies in a plane crash.
1965 Mar. 18 - Alexei Leonov spends 12 minutes outside of his Voskhod spacecraft performing the first spacewalk.
Mar. 23 - Gus Grissom and John Young fly the first manned Gemini spacecraft.
Jun. 3 - Ed White performs America's first spacewalk. Jim McDivitt remains in the Gemini capsule.
Jul. 14 - Mariner 4 returns close ranger images of Mars.
Nov. 16 - Venus 3 is launched. It becomes the first man made object to impact Venus on March 1, 1966.
Dec. 4 - Frank Borman and James Lovell begin a two week stay in Earth orbit aboard Gemini 7.
Dec. 15 - Walter Schirra and Thomas Stafford, in their Gemini 6 spacecraft, make the first space rendezvous with Gemini 7.
1966 Feb. 3 - Luna 9 becomes the first spacecraft to soft-land on the Moon.
Feb. 28 - Astronauts Charles Bassett and Elliott See die when their plane crashes in bad weather.
Apr. 3 - Luna 10 becomes the first satellite to orbit the Moon.
Jun. 2 - Surveyor 1 soft-lands on the Moon.
Aug. 14 - Lunar Orbiter 1 enters orbit around the Moon and takes the first picture of the Earth from that distance.
Nov. 11 - Gemini 12, the last flight of the Gemini Program, launches with James Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin aboard.
1967 Jan. 27 - Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee are killed when a fire ignites in their Apollo 1 capsule while performing a test on the launch pad.
Apr. 24 - Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov is killed when the parachutes of his Soyuz 1 capsule fail to open properly following re-entry.
Jun. 6 - Astronaut Edward Givens is killed in an automobile accident.
Oct. 5 - Astronaut Clifton Williams is killed in a plane crash.
Oct. 18 - Venera 4 transmits data about the atmosphere of Venus.
1968 Mar. 27 - Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, dies in a plane crash.
Sep. 15 - Zond 5 is launched. It carried a biological payload (including two turtles) around the Moon and returned to Earth six days later.
Oct. 11 - The crew of Apollo 7 begin a 10 day mission to study the new spacecraft.
Dec. 21 - Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders begin the first manned journey from the Earth to the Moon. On Christmas Eve they take turns reading Genesis in a broadcast heard around the world.
1969 Jan. 16 - Soyuz 4 & 5 perform the first Soviet spacecraft docking.
Jul. 20 - Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first men to walk on the Moon while crewmate Michael Collins orbits around the Moon alone.
Nov. 19 - Pete Conrad and Alan Bean perform the first precision lunar landing, touching down just 600 feet from the Surveyor 3 probe that arrived two years earlier.