Space Travel

First Spacecraft to Land On Another Planet

Venera 3March 1, 1966

The unmanned Soviet space probe Venera 3 crashes into the night side of Venus, becoming the first spacecraft to land on another planet.

 

First Saturn 1B Rocket Launch

Saturn 1BFebruary 26, 1966

The first Saturn 1B rocket is launched from Cape Canaveral. The Saturn 1B was primarily used for testing the Apollo spacecraft while the larger Saturn V rocket that was necessary for travel to the Moon was being developed. Later, after completion of the Moon landing program, The Saturn 1B was used for manned Skylab flights and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. In total, the Saturn 1B was launched 9 times with no failures.

First Fly-By of Uranus

Voyager SpacecraftFebruary 24, 1986

Voyager 2 performs the first fly-by of the planet Uranus. Voyager 2 still is transmitting data to this day, and a Twitter feed reports on its progress.

 

First Rocket to “Officially” Reach Outer Space

Bumper 5February 24, 1949

The first US rocket to reach outer space (Bumper 5) is launched from the White Sands Proving Grounds in New Mexico. The rocket was a modified German V-2 ballistic missile. It reached a record altitude of 244 miles, which broke the unofficial record of 117 miles, reportedly set by a V-2 missile launched by Germany in 1944. The later named and established Kármán line, which is 62.1 miles (100 kilometers) above the Earth’s sea level, is considered the upper limit of Earth’s atmosphere and the beginning of Outer Space.

Space Station Mir is Launched

MirFebruary 20, 1986

The Soviet Union launches the core module of the Mir space station. The core module will provide living quarters for the cosmonauts, including a galley, cooking elements, storage, individual crew cabins and personal hygiene area. Five additional modules will be launched between March 1987 and April 1996.

John Glen Becomes First American to Orbit Earth

John GlennFebruary 20, 1962

John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth, riding aboard Friendship 7. Glenn orbits the Earth three times in four hours, fifty-five minutes. NASA accomplishes the landmark using an IBM 7030 Stretch supercomputer.

First Flight of Space Shuttle – Just Not Into Space

Enterprise on Boeing 747February 18, 1977

The first Space Shuttle orbiter, the Enterprise, embarks on its maiden flight in “captive mode,” attached to the top of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. The flight is the first of five captive flights before the orbiter is finally released to land on its own. The nine month test program is conducted through November 1977 at the Dryden Flight Research Facility to demonstrate that the orbiter can fly and land like an airplane. The Enterprise, while the first shuttle to fly, was not the first space-worthy orbiter and was only used for testing purposes.

First Weather Satellite Launched

Vanguard 2February 17, 1959

Vanguard 2, the first weather satellite in space, is launched to measure cloud-cover distribution. The satellite is still in orbit today and is expected to continue to orbit for about 300 years.

Spacecraft Lands on an Asteroid

ErosFebruary 12, 2001

The NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft touches down in the “saddle” region of asteroid 433 Eros, becoming the first spacecraft to land on an asteroid.

Discovery Launches to Service Hubble

STS-82February 11, 1997

The Space Shuttle Discovery is launched on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. This was the second of five missions necessary to fix the flawed telescope. In most states, the entire thing could have been replaced as a lemon.