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
April 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.
April 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.
April 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.
April 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.
April 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.