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Time Line of Space Exploration
October 4, 1957 - Sputnik 1, the first man-made object
to orbit the Earth, is launched by the U.S.S.R., and remains in orbit
until January 4, 1958.
November 3, 1957 - Sputnik 2, carrying the dog Laika for
7 days in orbit, is launched by the U.S.S.R., and remains in orbit
until April 13, 1958.
January 31, 1958 - Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite
in orbit, lifts off at Cape Canaveral using a modified ABMA-JPL Jupiter-C
rocket. It carries a scientific experiment of James A. Van Allen, and
discovers the Earth's radiation belt.
March 5, 1958 - Explorer 2 is launched by a Jupiter-C rocket,
and fails to reach orbit.
March 17, 1958 - Vanguard 1 satellite is launched into orbit,
and continues to transmit for 3 years.
May 15, 1958 - Sputnik 3 is launched by the U.S.S.R.
October 1, 1958 - N.A.S.A. is founded, taking over existing National
Advisory Committee on Aeronautics.
October 11, 1958 - Pioneer 1, U.S. - IGY space probe, launched
to a height of 70,700 miles.
January 2, 1959 - Luna 1, first man-made satellite to orbit
the moon, is launched by the U.S.S.R.
March 3, 1959 - Pioneer 4, fourth U.S.-IGY space probe
was launched by a Juno II rocket, and achieved an earth-moon trajectory,
passing within 37,000 miles of the moon. It then fell into a solar orbit,
becoming the first U.S. sun orbiter.
September 12, 1959 - Luna 2 is launched, impacting on the
moon on September 13 carrying a copy of the Soviet coat of arms, and
becoming the first man-made object to hit the moon.
October 4, 1959 - Luna 3 translunar satellite is launched,
orbiting the moon and photographing 70 percent of the far side of the moon.
April 1, 1960 - Tiros 1, the first successful weather satellite,
is launched by the U.S.
August 18, 1960 - Discoverer XIV launches the first U.S.
camera-equipped Corona spy satellite.
April 12, 1961 - Vostok 1 is launched by the U.S.S.R.,
carrying Cosmonaut Yuri A. Gargarin, the first man in space. He orbits
the Earth once.
May 5, 1961 - Mercury Freedom 7 carries Alan B. Shepard,Jr.,
the first U.S. Astronaut into space, in a suborbital flight.
August 6, 1961 - Vostok 2 is launched by the U.S.S.R.,
carrying Cosmonaut Gherman Titov, the first day-long Soviet space flight.
February 20, 1962 - Mercury Friendship 7 lifts off with
John H. Glenn, Jr., the first American in orbit, and orbits the Earth
May 24, 1962 - Mercury Aurora 7 is launched with
M. Scott Carpenter, making three orbits.
July 10, 1962 - Telstar 1, U.S. satellite, beams the
first live transatlantic telecast.
December 14, 1962 - U.S. Mariner 2, the first successful
planetary spacecraft, flies past Venus, and enters a solar orbit.
June 16, 1963 - Vostok 6 carries Soviet Cosmonaut Valentia
Tereshkova, the first woman in space and orbits the Earth 48 times.
June, 1963 - Martin Schmidt interprets the behavior of 3C 273 -
the first known quasar.
July 31, 1964 - U.S. Ranger 7 relays the first close-range
photographs of the Moon.
March 18, 1965 - The first space walk is made from Soviet
Voskhod 2 by Cosmonaut Alexei A. Leonov. Duration is 12 minutes.
March 23, 1965 - First manned flight of the Gemini program,
Gemini 3 carrying Virgil I. Grissom and John W. Young. Made
three orbits around the earth.
March 24, 1965 - Ranger 9 transmits high-quality images
of the moon, many of which were shown live in the first television
spectacular about the moon.
June 3, 1965 - Edward White II makes the first U.S. space walk
from Gemini 4. Duration is 22 minutes.
July 14, 1965 - U.S. Mariner 4 returns the first
close-range images about Mars.
November 16, 1965 - Soviet Venus 3 is launched, becoming
the first craft to impact Venus on March 1, 1966.
December 4, 1965 - Gemini 7 is launched carrying Frank
Borman and James A. Lovell, Jr., making 206 orbits around Earth and
proving a trip to the Moon possible.
December 15, 1965 - American astronauts Walter Schirra, Jr. and
Thomas Stafford in Gemini 6 make the first space rendezvous
with Gemini 7.
February 3, 1966 - Soviet Luna 9 is the first spacecraft
to soft-land on the moon.
March 1, 1966 - Soviet Venera 3 impacts on Venus, the
first spacecraft to reach another planet. It fails to return data.
March, 1966 - Soviet Luna 10 is the first spacecraft to
orbit the moon.
June 2, 1966 - Surveyor 1 is the first U.S. spacecraft
to soft-land on the Moon.
August 14, 1966 - U.S. Lunar Orbiter 1 enters moon orbit,
and takes the first picture of the Earth from the distance of the moon.
April 23, 1967 - Soviet Soyuz 1 is launched,
carrying Vladimir M. Komarov. On April 24 it crashed, killing Komarov,
the first spaceflight fatality.
October 18, 1967 - Venera 4 sends a descent capsule into
the Venusian atmosphere, returning data about its composition.
September 15, 1968 - Soviet Zond 5 is launched, the first
spacecraft to orbit the Moon and return.
October 11, 1968 - Apollo 7 is the first manned Apollo
mission with Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and Walter Cunningham.
It orbited the earth once.
December 21, 1968 - Apollo 8 is launched with Frank Borman,
James A. Lovell, Jr. and William A. Anders, the first Apollo to
use the Saturn V rocket, and the first manned spacecraft to orbit
the Moon, making 10 orbits on its 6-day mission.
January, 1969 - Soyuz 4 & 5 perform the first Soviet
spaceship docking, transferring Cosmonauts between vehicles.
July 20, 1969 - Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, Jr. make the
first manned soft landing on the Moon, and the first moonwalk,
using Apollo 11.
July 31, 1969 - Mariner 6 returns high-resolution images
of the Martian surface, concentrating on the equatorial region.
August 5, 1969 - Mariner 7 returns high-resolution
images of the Martian surface, concentrating on the southern hemisphere.
April 11, 1970 - Apollo 13 is launched, suffering an
explosion in its SM oxygen tanks. Its Moon landing is aborted, and the
crew, James A. Lovell, Jr., John L. Swigert, Jr. and Fred W. Haise, Jr.,
September 12, 1970 - Soviet Luna 16 is launched,
conducting the first successful return of lunar soil samples by an
November 17, 1970 - Luna 17 lands on the moon, with
the first automatic robot, Lunokhod 1. Driven by a five-man
team on earth, traveled over surface for 11 days.
December 15, 1970 - Soviet Venera 7 is the first probe
to soft-land on Venus, transmitting for 23 minutes.
January 31, 1971 - Apollo 14 moon mission is launched by
the U.S. with the legendary Alan Shepard, along with Stuart Roosa and
Edgar Mitchell on board. They land in the planned Apollo 13 site, the
Fra Mauro highlands, which they explore with the help of a two-wheeled
cart that permits the transport of a significantly greater quantity of
lunar material than previous missions. Shepard becomes the first man to
hit a golf ball on the moon.
April 19, 1971 - Salyut 1 space station is launched by
the U.S.S.R. It remains in orbit until May 28, 1973.
May 30, 1971 - The United States launches Mariner 9,
which becomes the first spacecraft to survey Mars from orbit.
June 6, 1971 - Soyuz 11 carried Cosmonauts G.T. Dobrovolsky,
V.N. Volkov, and V.I. Patsayev to Salyut 1, the first manned
occupancy of an orbital station. However, on June 29, the Cosmonauts
died upon Soyuz 11's reentry.
July 30, 1971 - Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott
and James Irwin drive the first moon rover. The next year,
Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt drives a similar
November 13, 1971 - American Mariner 9
(launched May 30, 1971) is the first spacecraft to orbit
another planet, Mars. Over the next year, it maps 100 percent
of the Martian surface.
March 2, 1972 - Pioneer 10 is launched on an
Atlas/Centaur/TE364-4 towards Jupiter by the U.S., designed to
familiarize alien life with humans. It returns the first close-up
images of Jupiter in 1973.
July 15, 1972 - Pioneer 10 becomes the first
man-made object to travel through the asteroid belt.
December, 1972 - Scientists designate Cignus X-1 as the
first probable black hole.
April 5, 1973 - Pioneer 11 is launched on an
Atlas/Centaur/TE364-4, flying past Jupiter in 1974, and Saturn
in 1979, where it discovers new rings.
May 14, 1973 - Skylab Workshop is launched by
the U.S., and maintained by three crews.
May 25, 1973 - First crew to Skylab, Skylab 2,
are launched, repairing damage incurred to Skylab during
November 3, 1973 - American Mariner 10 is launched,
on the first dual-planet mission. Over the next year, it returned
photographs of Venus and Mercury.
May 17, 1974 - NASA launches the first Synchronous
Meteorological Satellite, SMS-1.
June 24, 1974 - Soviet Salyut 3, their first military
space station, is launched. It remains in orbit until January 1975.
December 26, 1974 - Soviet Salyut 4, civilian space
station, is launched. It remains in orbit until February 2, 1977.
July, 1975 - American Apollo (18) and Soviet
Soyuz 19 dock, the first international spacecraft
October, 1975 - Soviet Venera 9 and 10 send the
first pictures of the Venusian surface to Earth.
June 22, 1976 - Soviet military space station Salyut 5 is
launched, remaining in orbit until August 8, 1977.
July 20, 1976 - Pictures of the Martian surface are taken by
Viking 1, the first U.S. attempt to soft land a spacecraft
on another planet.
September 3, 1976 - Viking 2 lands on Mars on the Plain
of Utopia, where it discovered water frost.
August-September, 1977 - Voyagers 1 and 2 leave
Earth to meet with Jupiter in 1979 and Saturn in 1980.
September 29, 1977 - Soviet Salyut 6 space station is
launched. Its crews include members from Czechoslovakia, Poland, GDR,
Bulgaria, Hungary, Vietnam, Cuba, Mongolia, and Romania.
November, 1978 - The Einstein Observatory begins its 30-day
December, 1978 - Two Pioneer spacecraft reach Venus.
One drops four probes into the atmosphere, while the other maps the
September 1, 1979 - Pioneer 11 reaches Saturn, flying
to within 13,000 miles and taking the first close-up photographs.
April 12, 1981 - The first manned mission of the Space
Transportation System (STS-1), Columbia , is launched.
June 19, 1981 - The European Space Agency launches its third
December 20, 1981 - The ESA launches a fourth Ariane rocket.
March 1, 1982 - Venera 13 lands on Venus, and provides
the first Venusian soil analysis.
April 19, 1982 - Soviet Salyut 7 space station is
May 13, 1982 - Soviet Cosmonauts Anatoly N. Berezovoi and
Valentin V. Lebedev are launched in Soyuz-T 5 to rendezvous
with Salyut 7, the first team to inhabit the space station.
They return to Earth in Soyuz-T 7, setting a (then) duration
record of 211 days.
August, 1982 - Voyager 2 completes its flyby of Saturn.
November 11, 1982 - The space shuttle Columbia's fifth
mission, its first operational one, begins, deploying two satellites.
Crew: Vance Brand, Robert Overmyer, Joseph Allen, and William Lenoir.
April 4, 1983 - The space shuttle Challenger lifts off
for its first mission (STS-6) and has the first American space walk
in nine years. Crew: Paul Weitz, Karol Bobko, Donald Peterson, and
June 19, 1983 - Sally K. Ride is the first U.S. woman to travel
in space, on Challenger mission STS-7.
October 10, 1983 - Soviet Venera 15 returns the first
high-resolution images of the Venus polar area, and compiled a thermal
map of most of the northern hemisphere.
November 28, 1983 - The space shuttle Columbia carries
the ESA Spacelab-1 into orbit (STS-9). Its crew includes Ulf Merbold,
A German and first ESA member in space..
January-November, 1983 - The Infrared Astronomical Satellite
finds new comets, asteroids, galaxies, and a dust ring around the star
Vega that may be new planets.
February 3, 1984 - Bruce McCandless takes the first untethered
space walk using MMU from the space shuttle Challenger (STS-41B).
July 17, 1984 - launch of Soyuz-T 12 carrying Svetlana
Savitskaya, who becomes the first woman to walk in space.
August 30, 1984 - The third space shuttle, Discovery,
lifts off on it's maiden voyage (STS-41D). Crew: Henry W. Hartsfield,
Michael L. Coats, Richard Mullane, Steven Hawley, Judith A. Resnik, and
Charles D. Walker.
October, 1984 - Salyut 7's cosmonauts L. D. Kizim, V. A.
Solovyov, and O. Y. Atkov set a (then) 237-day record in space. They
arrive at Salyut 7 in Soyuz-T 10 and depart in Soyuz-T 11
October 5, 1984 - launch of space shuttle Challenger mission
STS-41G carrying the first crew with two women aboard - Sally Ride and
Katherine Sullivan. Sullivan becomes the first American woman to walk in space.
December, 1984 - Soviet/International Vega 1 & 2 are launched,
dropping probes into Venus' atmosphere before continuing to Halley's Comet.
January 8, 1985 - The Sakigake probe is launched by
Japan's Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, becoming the
first interplanetary probe as it rendezvous with Halley's Comet.
April 29, 1985 - The Challenger carries the ESA
Spacelab-3 into orbit (STS-51B).
July 2, 1985 - The European Space Agency launches the
Giotto spacecraft from an Ariane rocket. It encounters Halley's
Comet in 1986, and Comet P/Grigg-Skjellerup in 1992.
October 3, 1985 - The fourth space shuttle Atlantis
takes off on its first mission (STS-51J). Crew: Karol J. Bobko,
Ronald J. Grabe, Robert A. Stewart, David C. Hilmers, and
William A. Pailes.
October 1985 - Spacelab D1, the first joint German/ESA
mission, is flown. Its crew consists of two German DARA astronauts,
and Danish Wubbo Ockels of the ESA.
January, 1986 - Voyager 2 flies past Uranus.
January 28, 1986 - The space shuttle Challenger explodes
shortly after liftoff of mission STS-51L.
February 20, 1986 - The core unit of Soviet space station
Mir is launched.
March, 1986 - Spacecraft from the U.S.S.R, Japan, and Western
Europe fly by Halley's Comet on it's 30th recorded appearance.
March, 1986 - Astronomers discover an invisible gravity source
that splits a quasar's light.
April, 1986 - Astronomers find that our galaxy is smaller than
they thought and the Sun is 23,000 light-years from it's center.
February 25, 1987 - Supernova 1987A blazes into view.
December 1987 - Cosmonaut Yuri V. Romanenko returns from space
station Mir, having arrived there from Soyuz-TM 2, and
sets a (then) space endurance record of 326 days.
May 4, 1989 - Space Shuttle Atlantis is launched (STS-30),
deploying the spacecraft Magellan.
July 12, 1989 - Soviet/International Phobos 2 launched,
which orbits Mars to study its surface, atmosphere and magnetic field.
October 18, 1989 - U.S. launches the Galileo spacecraft
from Shuttle Atlantis flight STS-34, which took infrared images
of Venus, and images of the asteroid Ida, before continuing to Jupiter.
April 5, 1990 - U.S. Pegasus rocket is deployed from a
B-52 bomber, and launched the Pegsat satellite in the first
demonstration of the Pegasus launch vehicle.
April 24, 1990 - Space Shuttle Discovery launches on STS-31,
deploying the Edwin P. Hubble Space Telescope (HST) astronomical
August, 1990 - U.S. spacecraft Magellan arrives at Venus,
where for the next year it took radar images of the surface.
October 6, 1990 - Space Shuttle Discovery launches the
Ulysses spacecraft with two upper stages, on mission STS-41.
Ulysses flies toward Jupiter, to be slingshot towards the sun,
to obtain data from high solar latitudes.
February 7, 1991 - Salyut 7 falls from orbit and burns up
April 5, 1991 - Space Shuttle Atlantis carries the
Compton Gamma Ray Observatory into orbit. This new space
telescope, built by NASA, was the first to provide an all-sky continuous
survey in the gamma-ray and X-ray spectra.
June 5, 1991 - Shuttle Columbia carries the
Spacelab SLS-1 into orbit, to conduct investigations into the
effects of weightlessness on humans. (STS-40)
February 8, 1992 - Spacecraft Ulysses flies around Jupiter,
on its way to the sun.
May 2, 1992 - Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on its
first mission (STS-49), repairing the Intelsat VI satellite.
Crew: Daniel C. Brandenstein, Kevin P. Chilton, Richard J. Hieb,
Bruce E. Melnick, Pierre J. Thout, Kathryn C. Thornton, and
Thomas D. Akers.
September 25, 1992 - Mars Observer lifts off, the first
American probe to Mars in 17 years, since Viking 2. This probe
is intended as an orbital mapper to study the red planet's atmosphere,
surface, and geological make-up. The spacecraft functions well during
its cruise to Mars, then all contact was lost on August 21, 1993, three
days before orbital insertion.
December 2, 1993 - Space Shuttle Endeavour launches
on STS-61, making the first on-orbit service of the Hubble Space
January 25, 1994 - U.S. launches Clementine, a new DOD
satellite that performs a lunar mapping mission using advanced ballistic
missile defense technologies. It suffers a malfunction on May 10, 1994,
ending its mission.
February, 1994 - A Russian Cosmonaut, Sergei Krikalev, flies on
board the U.S. space shuttle Discovery for the first time (STS-60).
September 13, 1994 - Spacecraft Ulysses reaches a maximum
Southern latitude of 80.2 degrees at the sun, proceeding towards the
Northern latitudes, maintaining an orbital period of six years.
October 12, 1994 - Spacecraft Magellan enters the
atmosphere of Venus, burning up following the completion of its mapping
December 9, 1994 - Asteroid XM1 passes within 65,000 miles of Earth.
February 6, 1995 - Space shuttle Discovery maneuvers to
within 37 feet of Russian space station Mir, in preparation for a
shuttle-Mir docking (STS-63). This is the first shuttle mission
to be flown by a female pilot.
March 22, 1995 - Cosmonaut Valeriy Polyakov returns to Earth after
a 438-day mission aboard Russian space station Mir, setting a new
space endurance record.
June 26, 1995 - Space Shuttle Atlantis rendezvous with
Russian space station Mir during a ten-day mission on STS-71.
Cosmonauts are transferred to and from Atlantis, and Astronaut
Norman Thagard is returned from Mir, having arrived on
Soyuz-TM 21, and making a new American space endurance record of
September 1995 - Pioneer 11 ceases making scientific
observations, its power source nearly depleted.
November 12, 1995 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on
mission STS-74, making the second docking with Russian space station
Mir. It delivers two solar arrays, and a docking module for
future Shuttle dockings.
December 7, 1995 - The Galileo spacecraft arrives at Jupiter,
performing an orbit while dropping a probe into the atmosphere, and
putting a satellite into orbit, which will spend the next two years
orbiting the planet.
February 8, 1996 - Thomas Reiter becomes the first European
Space Agency astronaut to make two spacewalks (both from the Russian
Mir space station). His previous spacewalk was on October 21,
1995, and lasted 5 hours 11 minutes.
February 17, 1996 - NASA launches the first in the Discovery
series of spacecraft, the Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR)
spacecraft, aboard a Delta II-7925-8 rocket.
March 22, 1996 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off
on STS-76, performing the third docking with Space Station Mir.
Astronaut Shannon Lucid was left on Mir, becoming the first
female Astronaut to crew a Space Station.
September 26, 1996 - Space Shuttle Atlantis touches down after
mission STS-79. It brings back Shannon Lucid, who becomes the longest
US astronaut in space, and the longest female astronaut in space.
November 19, 1996 - Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off on its
21st space flight, setting a new shuttle in-space endurance record
of almost 18 days. This flight carries Story Musgrave, at that time the oldest
man to fly in space at 61 years of age.
January 12, 1997 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off for the
fifth docking with the Mir space station, and Jerry Linenger replaces John
Blaha as the American crew member.
February 10, 1997 - Soyuz TM25 lifts off to dock with the Mir
space station. New Russian crew members Vasily Tsibliyev and Alexander Lazutkin
relieve Russians Korzun and Kaleri for the beginning of an eventful and difficult
tour of duty. Before the resident crew leaves, a fierce fire breaks out on board
which is contained and put out before serious damage is done. After the old crew
leaves, an attempt to re-dock with the Progress supply freighter fails, with the
freighter just missing collision with Mir. These events are followed by
failures of the electrolysis oxygen generators and the station's attitude control
February 11, 1997 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off
on the second maintenance mission for the Hubble Space Telescope, installing
a new spectrograph, infrared camera, new guidance sensors, a new computer and data
recorder, and repairing the telescope's insulation.
March 31, 1997 - After 25 years of operation, routine telemetry and ground
control with Pioneer 10 is terminated. The probe at that moment is 6.7 billion
miles from Earth, traveling at 28,000 miles per hour. In two million years, it will
reach the red giant Aldeberan in the constellation of Taurus.
April 4, 1997 - Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off for the shortest
shuttle flight in 12 years (four days). The flight is cut short due to a failure of
one of the spacecraft's three fuel cells.
May 17, 1997 - Space Shuttle Atlantis performs its sixth docking
with Mir. Jerry Linenger is relieved by Michael Foale as the American crewmember
on Mir. Atlantis returned to Earth on May 24th and Mir
continued with its troubles. On June 24th, the crew attempts a test
with a new docking system to dock with a Progress freighter. The failure of the
new system results in the collision of the freighter into Mir, causing a
serious air leak and damage to the electrical power of the station.
June 27, 1997 - NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) probe passes the
asteroid Mathilde on its way to meeting up with 433 Eros.
July 1, 1997 - Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off again to complete the
flight aborted in April. The shuttle is outfitted with Spacelab, set up as a
microgravity science laboratory, with 33 different experiments, that fills the cargo
July 4, 1997 - Mars Pathfinder becomes the first probe to successfully
land on Mars since Viking 2 in 1976. It is also the first planetary probe to
include a separate roving robot probe (Sojourner) since the Soviet Union's
Luna 21 in 1973.
August 7, 1997 - Soyuz TM26 arrives at Mir with a relief crew.
The fresh Russian crew, along with Michael Foale, undertake seven internal and external
spacewalk missions over a six month period in order to repair the crippled station.
During the repairs, the station has a near collision with an abandoned satellite
(MSTI 2), which speeds past to within 500 meters of Mir.
August 7, 1997 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off for a 12-day mission
to deploy and retrieve the Crista-Spas 2 satellite, which studied the Earth's
middle atmosphere. This flight also tested various infra-red and ultraviolet
instrumentation, and tested the Japanese robot-arm to be used for the International
September 12, 1997 - Mars Global Surveyor arrives at Mars and begins the
process of adjusting its highly elliptical orbit into a circular one using aerobraking -
friction with the top of the Martian atmosphere to slow the craft down. Taking about
2,000 images of the planet, this probe shows the entire life of a dust storm, evidence
of Martian streams, ponds, oceans, and underground water drainage systems.
September 27, 1997 - Space Shuttle Atlantis performs its seventh docking
with Mir to support the repair & upgrade process, and bringing additional
experiments for the space station.
October 15, 1997 - launch of the double probe Cassini/Huygens, aimed at
Saturn. This is probably the most ambitious and complex unmanned planetary project
ever attempted, costing more than $2.5 billion and involving 17 nations and hundreds
of scientists from the U.S. and Europe. It carries a sophisticated camera package and
11 other instruments aimed at performing 19 experiments on the ringed planet. It will
arrive at Saturn in 2004, will orbit Saturn up to 60 times sending back close-up
photographs of Saturn's rings and its 18 moons. Cassini also carries a separate
probe, Huygens. This probe will be dropped through the atmosphere of Saturn's
largest moon, Titan.
November 19, 1997 - Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off with three American
astronauts, one Japanese, and the first Ukrainian astronaut, Leonid Kadenyuk. This
mission, mostly dedicated to science and the testing of new space technologies, releases
one free-flying satellite.
January 7, 1998 - Lunar Prospector is the first NASA mission to the Moon
in 25 years, and the first dedicated to lunar research since Apollo 17 in 1972.
The spacecraft is placed in lunar orbit to make a careful spectroscopic analysis of
the entire lunar surface, including its North and South poles, and soon confirms what
the Department of Defense Clementine mission had found in 1994 - that trapped within
some of the craters at the Moon's two poles is about 6.6 trillion tons of permanently
frozen water ice.
January 22, 1998 - Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off to rendezvous with
Mir, the eight U.S. docking with the Russian space station and the first by a
shuttle other than Atlantis.
February 14, 1998 - The four satellites Globalstar 1, 2, 3, and 4 are
the first in Globalstar's planned 44-satellite constellation of medium-Earth-orbit
(~900 miles altitude) communications satellites for providing voice and data links
worldwide from both remote and home telephones. This system is planned as a direct
competitor to Iridium's cluster, which began launching in May of 1997.
April 17, 1998 - Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off on a 16-day mission,
its 25th. The mission is dedicated to the study of the effects of
weightlessness on the human neurological system, with the astronauts serving as both
researchers and experimental subjects.
June 2, 1998 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off on a 10-day mission,
its 24th and the last shuttle docking with Mir.
July 3, 1998 - Japan launches the Nozomi probe to Mars, the first
planetary mission by a country other than the U.S. or the Soviet Union/Russia. Using
a combination of lunar gravity, Earth gravity, and rocket burns, Nozomi is scheduled
to arrive at Mars in December 2003.
October 3, 1998 - Launched by the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, the
Space Technology EXperiment (STEX) satellite tests 29 new spacecraft designs,
including an almost four-mile-long tether, advanced solar panels, and an ion engine
October 24, 1998 - NASA launches Deep Space 1, a technology test
spacecraft which evaluates a dozen advanced spacecraft engineering designs, from
mirror-enhanced solar panels to the first use of an ion engine to leave Earth orbit
and rendezvous with the asteroid Braille.
October 29, 1998 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off with John Glenn
aboard, first American to orbit Earth and at 77, the oldest man to fly in space.
The flight is the last purely scientific shuttle flight, focusing on astronomy,
life sciences, and materials. One satellite is deployed, one is released and retrieved.
Most subsequent shuttle flights are ferry and construction flights for the International
November 20, 1998 - the first component of the International Space Station,
Zarya, is launched on a Russian rocket. This Russian built, U.S. financed
module provides communications, electrical power, and attitude control for the station
until the arrival of the third module (Zvezda, in July 2000).
December 4, 1998 - Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on its thirteenth
space flight, with the International Space Station's second module, Unity.
This module provides the docking ports and connections for every other docked module.
December 11, 1998 - Mars Climate Orbiter is launched by NASA, with the
objective of studying Martian weather. The probe is lost as it approaches Mars on
September 23, 1999, due to an error in propulsion software, using English instead of
metric units. The probe passes too close to Mars and burns up in the atmosphere.
December 23, 1998 - NEAR space probe flies to within 2400 miles of the
asteroid 433 Eros, taking 222 photographs of nearly two-thirds of its surface. A
software problem prevents the spacecraft from going into orbit around the asteroid,
but a second engine burn on January 3, 1999 brings the spacecraft back to Eros in
February of 2000.
January 3, 1999 - Mars Polar Lander lifts off on its ill-fated mission
to Mars. This NASA probe is to land within about 600 miles of the Martian
South Pole, along with dropping two surface-penetrating darts. Contact with the probe
is lost on December 3, 1999 as it is descending through the Martian atmosphere and it
is never heard from again, the first failure of a U.S. planetary soft landing in 30
February 7, 1999 - The NASA satellite Stardust lifts off for a rendezvous
with the Comet Wild-2 in January of 2004.
February 20, 1999 - the Russian Soyuz TM29 lifts off for the Mir
space station. This is scheduled to be the final mission to Mir, and when the
crew of TM29 departs Mir in August of 1999, they leave the space station
empty for the first time in almost exactly 10 years.
May 27, 1999 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off for the International
Space Station. They bring supplies and perform a spacewalk of nearly eight hours to
install two exterior cranes, along with a variety of tools and equipment for future
astronaut use. They deploy the satellite Starshine for studying atmospheric
July 23, 1999 - Space Shuttle Columbia lifts off, carrying the Chandra
X-Ray Observatory into orbit.
July 28, 1999 - Deep Space 1 flies to within 16 miles of the asteroid
Braille and continues on its course to rendezvous with Comet Wilson-Harrington in
November 19, 1999 - China launches Shenzhou, the first unmanned test of
their manned capsule.
December 19, 1999 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off for the third
maintenance mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. They perform three space walks,
installing six new gyroscopes, a new guidance sensor, a new computer, a
voltage/temperature kit for the spacecraft's batteries, a new transmitter, a new
solid state recorder, and thermal insulation blankets.
January 3, 2000 - the Galileo space probe safely completes its encounter
with Jupiter's ice moon, Europa, at an altitude of 343 km. Later in the year, on
May 30, Galileo flies by Jupiter's largest moon Ganymede at an altitude of
February 11, 2000 - Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off to carry out the
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, cosponsored by NASA and the National Imagery and
Mapping Agency. A large radar antenna in the payload bay and a smaller element
deployed on a 60-meter boom work together in the synthetic-aperture mode to produce
the effect of a much larger antenna. The mission produces a three-dimensional map
of about 80% of the world's landmass.
February 14, 2000 - NEAR (Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous) probe settles
into orbit around the asteroid 433 Eros, producing a series of stunning close-up images.
Ground controllers start tightening its orbit for an eventual soft impact with the
tumbling, potato-shaped asteroid.
April 4, 2000 - Soyuz TM30 lifts off on a return mission to Mir,
reversing Russia's actions of the previous year to shut the space station down. The
idea is to re-open the space station for commercial operations, including a Mir
version of the Survivor TV show. The cosmonauts remain until mid-June, and
two Progress freighters are flown up (one in April, one in October) before
financial support disappears and the venture falls through.
May 19, 2000 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off for the International
Space Station for maintenance on the crane and a faulty antenna, installation of a
Russian boom arm, handrails and upgrades to the ventilation system, and delivery of
new batteries, supplies and equipment.
July 12, 2000 - the Zvezda service module for the International Space
Station (ISS) is launched from Russia on a Proton rocket. The automated
docking of this unit with the first linked pair of modules already in orbit -
Zarya and Unity - allows the U.S. to start a series of space shuttle
launches to add American-built components, which will be followed by laboratory modules
from Europe and Japan. Zvezda will act as the control center and living quarters
for the initial space station crews.
September 8, 2000 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on a 12-day mission
to outfit the ISS, completing the installation of the Zvezda module.
October 11, 2000 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off on a 14-day mission
to install the Z1 segment, the first piece of the space station truss, and a third
docking port (PMA-3) for the Unity adapter. They also test the new 'SAFER'
spacesuit backpack propulsion units.
October 31, 2000 - the Expedition One crew is launched on a Soyuz
transport to become the first crew of the ISS.
December 1, 2000 - Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off on a 12 day mission
to the ISS. They install the first set of ISS's solar panels and radiators
for removing heat.
January 9, 2001 - the first launch of the "true" millenium is Chinese, with the
second test flight of the manned Shenshou spaceship, reported to be carrying a
monkey, a dog, and a rabbit.
February 7, 2001 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off for the ISS,
carrying the U.S.'s Destiny laboratory module. In three space walks the
astronauts install Destiny, a grappler for the station's robotic arm, and radio
February 14, 2001 - NEAR soft impacts on the asteroid 433 Eros, at 2 m/s.
Signals continue to be received from the probe hours after the landing, confirming its
March 8, 2001 - Space Shuttle Discovery is launched on a 14-day
ISS construction mission. In two spacewalks the astronauts install new
equipment including the Leonardo logistics module, built by the Italian Space
Agency to move racks of experimental equipment to the ISS, docking to the
station as the equipment is used & transferred, then carrying equipment back in the
shuttle after use.
March 23, 2001 - fifteen years after its first launch, and after nearly 10
years of continuous occupation by astronauts, the Mir space station is
de-orbited, breaking up in the atmosphere and impacting in the Pacific Ocean.
April 7, 2001 - the 2001 Mars Odyssey probe is launched on a trajectory
for Mars orbit to be achieved in October, with a mission similar to that of the
Mars Climate Orbiter launched December 1998. Mars Odyssey
successfully enters Mars orbit on October 24th.
April 19, 2001 - Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off for the ISS
on a construction mission. The crew will install the mobile robotic arm on the
station (Canadarm 2) and supply the Destiny laboratory module with
new experiments, using the Rafaello logistics module.
April 28, 2001 - Soyuz spacecraft TM-32 lifts off for the
ISS with the first space tourist, business executive Dennis Tito, who pays
the Russians $20 million for the ride.
June 30, 2001 - NASA's Microwave Anisotropy Probe (MAP) is launched on a
trajectory for a gravity boost past the moon to a position 1.5 million km outside Earth's
orbit. From that position it is to measure cosmic background radiation from the dark
July 12, 2001 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off in the pre-dawn darkness
for the ISS with the Joint Airlock which will enable space walks to be performed
directly from the space station itself (I am there to watch the launch!).
August 10, 2001 - Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off for the ISS
with the Leonardo laboratory module and SimpleSat, an experimental
low-cost astronomical telescope.
September 22, 2001 - Deep Space 1 successfully completes its flyby of
October 16, 2001 - Galileo completes another flyby of Jupiter's moon Io,
passing only 181 km from Io's south polar region.
December 5, 2001 - Space Shuttle Endeavour is launched carrying the
Raffaello logistics module back to the ISS with new supplies.
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You can e-mail Randy Culp for inquiries,
suggestions, new ideas or just to chat.
Updated 29 March 2007