Space Travel

First Commercial Communications Satellite Activates

Intelsat IJune 28, 1965

Intelsat I, the first commercial communications satellite, is activated for service. It was nicknamed “Early Bird” after the famous proverb, and became famous for carrying the first commercial telephone call between America and Europe, as well as helping provide TV coverage of the Gemini 6 splashdown.

SpaceShipOne – First Private Space Flight

SpaceShipOne

June 21, 2004

Financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, SpaceShipOne becomes the first spacecraft developed by the free market to enter spaceflight. Launched from a mothership named White Knight, SpaceShipOne flew just beyond the atmosphere into the threshold of space then glided back to Earth. SpaceShipOne would later win the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the first non-government organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft.

Viking 1 Enters Mars Orbit

Viking SpacecraftJune 19, 1976

The Viking 1 spacecraft enters the into orbit around the planet Mars 10 months after being launched from Earth. Viking 1 would become the first US spacecraft to land on Mars and the first spacecraft overall to successfully soft land and perform a mission on Mars.

First Man-Made Object to Leave Solar System

Pioneer 10June 13, 1983

The NASA space probe Pioneer 10 crosses the orbit of Neptune, becoming the first man-made object to leave the Solar System. It was launched on March 2, 1972 toward the red star Aldebaran, which forms the eye of the constellation Taurus. The last contact with Pioneer 10 was on January 23, 2003.

 

 

Launch of Venera 4

Venera 4

June 12, 1967

The Soviet probe Venera 4 is successfully launched. On October 18, 1967, it will enter Venus’ atmosphere where it will become the first space probe to successfully return atmospheric data from another planet.

US Soft Lands on Moon

Surveyor NASA Lunar LanderJune 2, 1966

NASA’s lunar lander Surveyor 1 lands in Oceanus Procellarum (“Ocean of Storms”) on the Moon, becoming the first US spacecraft to soft-land on an extraterrestrial body. The previous Ranger program sent craft that had hard-landings (i.e. crash landings). However, the Soviet spacecraft, Luna 9, claims the honor of being the first to soft-land on the moon, almost exactly 4 months prior to Surveyor 1.

Discovery Docks with International Space Station

STS-96May 29, 1999

The Space Shuttle Discovery completes the first docking with the International Space Station (ISS).

Skylab Launched

SkylabMay 14, 1973

The United States launches Skylab One, its first manned space station. It is the last launch of the Saturn V rocket, and the the largest payload ever launched into space at the time. Skylab will fall back into the Earth’s atmosphere in July 1979.

First American in Space

Alan ShepardMay 5, 1961

NASA astronaut Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space when he makes a fifteen minute suborbital flight aboard the Mercury capsule Freedom 7. He reaches an altitude of 115 miles, during which he experiences about five minutes of weightlessness.

Hubble Deployed

Hubble TelescopeApril 25, 1990

The crew of the Space Shuttle Discovery deploys the US$2.5 billion Hubble Space Telescope. There will be initial difficulties caused by a flaw in the design of the telescopes mirror. Image correction software will keep the telescope useful until corrective optics are installed on December 25, 1993.