Key dates in the history of space exploration

Following are key dates in the history of space travel and exploration, 50 years after Soviet cosmonaut Yury Gagarin became the first man in space:

1957

October: USSR launches first satellite Sputnik 1.

November 3: Russian dog Laika becomes first live animal in space but dies aboard Sputnik 2.

1958

October: American space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) created.

1961

April: Gagarin becomes first man in space, completing a single, 108-minute orbit aboard Vostok 1.

May: US President John Kennedy launches the Apollo programme which foresees a man on the moon by the end of the decade. American Alan Shepard carries out a 15-minute space flight aboard Mercury.

1962

February: American John Glenn completes the first three orbits of the Earth.

August: US launches a probe to Venus, USSR fires a probe to Mars in November.

1963

June: First space flight by a woman, Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova.

1965

March: Cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov undertakes first spacewalk during a 26-hour flight.

1967

January: Launchpad blaze kills all three astronauts aboard Apollo 1. Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov killed when Soyuz 1 parachute fails in April.

1969

July: US astronauts Neil Armstrong, then Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (Apollo 11) become first men to set foot on the Moon.

1971

April: USSR launches first orbital space station, Salyut 1.

June: Three cosmonauts on Soyuz 11 die during descent of their module.

1975

May: European Space Agency created.

July: A US Apollo spacecraft docks with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft while in Earth orbit.

1979

December: Europe becomes a space power with the launch of the Ariane rocket.

1981

April: Maiden voyage of the US space shuttle Columbia, the first reusable manned spacecraft. It is followed later by Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour.

1986

January: Challenger explodes on liftoff, killing all seven astronauts.

1990

April: Launch of of the Hubble Space Telescope, a joint venture between NASA and the European Space Agency.

1998

November: Start of the contruction of the International Space Station (ISS), which is inhabited in late 2000.

2001

April: US millionaire Dennis Tito becomes the world's first space tourist.

2003

February: Shuttle Columbia disintegrates over Texas upon reentry killing seven astronaunts.

October: China launches the Chang'e I satellite, the nation's first lunar orbiter. In September 2008 Chinese astronaut Zhai Zhigang aboard the Shenzhou VII successfully completes his country's first ever space walk.

2004

September: British airline magnate Richard Branson announces a plan for the world's first commercial space flights.

2008

October: India's first lunar mission blasts off from the national space centre on the southeastern coast.

2009

February: Iran launches its first domestically manufactured satellite into orbit. A year later it sends animals into space.

2010

February: US President Barack Obama scraps plans to return Americans to the moon and to conquer Mars.

2011

February: Shuttle Discovery lands back on Earth after its final space flight before retirement. After the last journeys of Endeavour and Atlantis, the US will depend totally on Russia's Soyuz to go to space.

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