Timeline: Race for space

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* 29 July 1958: President Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Space Act, establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa).

* 11 October 1958: First Nasa launch from Cape Canaveral: Pioneer 1.

* 12 April 1961: Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to go into space, in the Vostok I spacecraft. Flight lasts 108 minutes.

* 5 May 1961: Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space aboard Freedom 7.

* 20 February 1962: John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, in the Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft.

* 20 July 1969: First moon landing. Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first and second humans on the moon, arriving aboard Apollo 11.

* 28 January 1986: Space Shuttle Challenger blows up just after take-off. All crew members die.

* 20 February 1986: Russia launches the core module for the Mir Space Station.

* 24 April 1990: Hubble telescope launched from Space Shuttle Columbia.

* 20 November 1998: First part of the International Space Station – the Russian-built Zarya module – is launched.

* 28 April 2001: The first space tourist, American Dennis Tito, spends eight days on the International Space Station. He pays £14m for the privilege.

* 1 February 2003: The crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia perish when it breaks up on re-entry.