Key dates in space exploration

2012-08-27 09:25
Space Shuttle and International Space Station crew gather for a group portrait. (Nasa, AP)

Space Shuttle and International Space Station crew gather for a group portrait. (Nasa, AP)

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Washington - Following are key dates in the history of space travel and exploration, following the death on Saturday of US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon:


October: USSR launches first satellite Sputnik 1.

November: Russian dog Laika becomes first live animal in space but dies aboard Sputnik 2.


January: The US launches its Explorer 1 satellite.

October: The US space agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), is created.


October: An estimated 126 people die in an explosion at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, an accident that was not acknowledged by the Soviet government until 1989. The incident is also known as the Nedelin catastrophe.


April: Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin becomes first man in space, completing a single, 108-minute orbit aboard Vostok 1.

May: US President John F Kennedy launches the Apollo programme, which foresees a man on the moon by the end of the decade. American Alan Shepard carries out a 15-minute space flight aboard Mercury.


February: American John Glenn completes the first three orbits of the Earth.

August: US launches a probe to Venus.

November: USSR fires a probe to Mars.


June: First space flight by a woman, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova.


March: Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov undertakes first spacewalk during a 26-hour flight.


January: Launchpad blaze kills all three US astronauts aboard Apollo 1.

April: Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov killed when Soyuz 1 plummets to the ground after re-entry.


July: US astronauts Neil Armstrong, followed by Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (Apollo 11) become first men to set foot on the moon.


February: Japan launches its first satellite, followed by China.


April: The USSR launches the first orbital space station, Salyut 1.

June: Three cosmonauts on Soyuz 11 die during descent of their module.


May: The European Space Agency is created.

July: A US Apollo spacecraft docks with a Soviet Soyuz ship while in Earth's orbit.


December: Europe becomes a space power with the launch of the Ariane rocket.


October: Record space flight duration of 180 days set by two Russians.


April: Maiden voyage of the US space shuttle Columbia, the first reusable manned spacecraft. It is followed later by Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.


January: Challenger shuttle explodes shortly after lift-off, killing all seven astronauts.

February: Launch of Russia's Mir space station.


April: Launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, a joint venture between Nasa and the European Space Agency.


November: Start of the construction of the International Space Station (ISS), which is inhabited in late 2000.


April: Italian American multimillionaire Dennis Tito becomes the world's first space tourist.


February: Shuttle Columbia disintegrates over Texas upon re-entry killing seven astronauts.

October: China launches its first lunar orbiter.


January: Two Nasa rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, land on Mars.

September: British airline magnate Richard Branson announces a plan for the world's first commercial space flights.


September: Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang aboard the Shenzhou VII successfully completes his country's first ever space walk.

October: India's first lunar mission blasts off from the national space centre on the southeastern coast.


February: Iran launches its first domestically manufactured satellite, Omid, into orbit.


February: US President Barack Obama scraps plans to return Americans to the moon and to conquer Mars. Iran, meanwhile, announces that it has sent animals into space.


February: Shuttle Discovery lands back on Earth after its final space flight before retirement. After the last journeys of Endeavour and Atlantis, the US will depend totally on Russia's Soyuz to go to space.


17 May: Two Russians and an American dock at the International Space Station. Russia is now the only country capable of carrying crews to the ISS.

22 May: The US company SpaceX launches its Dragon space capsule toward the International Space Station.

24 June: China successfully completes the country's first manual docking in orbit, a milestone in an ambitious programme to build a space station by the end of the decade.

6 August: Nasa's Curiosity rover lands on Mars, opening a new era in exploration of the planet. It makes its first test drive on 22 August.

25 August: US astronaut Neil Armstrong dies at the age of 82 following complications from cardiovascular surgery.
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