Space Travel

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.

 

Surveyor 3 Launched

Surveyor 3April 17, 1967

The spacecraft Surveyor 3 is launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. It is the second U.S. spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon (Surveyor 2 crash landed) where it will study the lunar surface and send more than 6,300 pictures back to Earth. In all, seven Surveyors will be sent to the Moon, five of them successfully completing soft landings.

 

Columbia Lands

Columbia, STS-1 LandingApril 14, 1981

The first test flight of the first operational space shuttle, the Columbia, ends successfully as the orbiter lands at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Houston, We’ve Had a Problem

Apollo 13 Damaged Service ModuleApril 13, 1970

An oxygen tank aboard the Service Module of Apollo 13 explodes. Moments later, astronaut Jack Swigert announces the later-famous phrase, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” The explosion cripples the spacecrafts, resulting in a near-complete loss of electricity and oxygen. The oxygen leak will force the crew to abandon the command module for the lunar module as a makeshift “lifeboat” becoming stranded for four days, more than two hundred thousand miles from Earth, while NASA plans the most spectacular rescue mission in U.S. space history. Against all odds, the three astronauts will return safely back to Earth.

First Space Shuttle Launch

Space Shuttle Columbia STS-1April 12, 1981

NASA launches the first Space Shuttle mission, STS-1, sending the Columbia on its maiden voyage. This mission intended to prove the feasibility of the Space Shuttles in specific, and reusable spacecraft in general. Originally set to launch on April 10th, problems delayed the launch by two days, which caused the launch to occur exactly 20 years after Yuri Gagarin became the first man to fly into space.

First Man in Space

Yuri GagarinApril 12, 1961

Yuri Gagarin, age 27, becomes the first man to orbit the Earth aboard the Soviet spacecraft, Vostok 1. He remains in space for an hour and forty-eight minutes before re-entering the atmosphere. This ultimately was Gagarin’s only space flight. He died on March 27, 1968 when the MiG-15 he was piloting crashed near Moscow. Reportedly, at the time of his death, Yuri Gagarin was in training for a second space mission.

 

The Mercury Seven

The Mercury SevenApril 9, 1959

NASA announces the selection of the United States’ first seven astronauts, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald Slayton, The seven were chosen from 110 applicants to participate in the Mercury program, the nation’s first manned space program. The news media quickly dubs the group the “Mercury Seven.” On May 5th, 1961, Shepard will become the first American in space during the flight of Freedom 7.

 

First Spacecraft to Orbit Moon

Luna 10 OrbiterApril 3, 1966

The Soviet space probe Luna 10 becomes the first spacecraft to orbit around the Moon. It was launched by the USSR from an Earth orbiting platform on March 31, 1966. Luna 10’s battery will operate for 460 lunar orbits before deactivating as planned on May 30, 1966.