July 14, 1965
NASA’s Mariner 4 becomes the first spacecraft to perform a successful fly-by of Mars and the first to send back photographs of another planet from deep space. The photographs are the first showing details of Mars’ surface including extensive cratering.
July 11, 1979
The first American space station, Skylab, reenters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up after plans for keeping it in orbit fail to materialize. Fragments of Skylab fell around Perth, Australia, killing one cow.
July 10, 1962
The world’s first international communications satellite, Telstar I, is launched into orbit. A collaboration between the US, Britain, and France, Telstar I introduced the world to trans-Atlantic video feeds and ushered in a new era of communication.
June 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.
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.
June 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.
June 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.
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.
June 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.
May 29, 1999