List of Space Firsts (1944-1971) to Make Your Day

Americans and Soviets raced to be the first country to put a human in space, proving their technological and intellectual superiority. The ‘Space Race’ made tremendous advances in technology due to the huge amount of resources thrown into them by the Superpowers.

President Kennedy’s statement centered the Space Race on a single goal for Americans. That was touching down a man on the Moon before the USSR did. The Space Race evolved into a race to reach the Moon for the Americans. But the Soviet Union even though we’re trying hard to put a man on the moon, denied having raced America to the moon.

Most of the early space firsts were scored by the Soviets. A little later, the Americans picked up and made their biggest accomplishment, landing two men on the moon in 1969.

Here is a list of early space firsts achieved by the Superpowers. Enjoy the article and type in the comments which achievement was your favorite and why.


1944

The First Man-made Object to Reach Space

The V-2 rocket became the first man-made object to reach space on June 20, 1944, when it reached an altitude of 176 km. It was also the first suborbital flight of a man-made object. Pictured is the first successful launch of a V-2 rocket on October 3, 1942, from Peenemünde, Germany.


1946

The First Photo of Earth from Space

The image pictured is the first photo of the Earth taken from space by a modified V-2 rocket on October 24, 1946. It was launched from White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, USA.

The image pictured is the first photo of the Earth taken from space by a modified V-2 rocket on October 24, 1946. It was launched from White Sands Missile Range in White Sands, New Mexico, USA.


1957

First Man-made object to orbit Earth

On October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 became the first satellite to orbit the Earth. It was launched by the USSR from Baikonur Cosmondrome, now in Kazakhstan. The launch of marked the beginning of the ‘Space Race’ and ‘Space Age’.

On October 4, 1957, Sputnik 1 became the first satellite to orbit the Earth. It was launched by the USSR from Baikonur Cosmondrome, now in Kazakhstan. The launch marked the beginning of the ‘Space Race’ and ‘Space Age.


The First Animal to Orbit the Earth

Sputnik 2 was launched on November 3, 1957. It carried a dog named Laika. She survived the launch, however by the fourth orbit, the cabin overheated. She died after a few days from overheating.

Sputnik 2 was launched on November 3, 1957. It carried a dog named Laika. She survived the launch, however by the fourth orbit, the cabin overheated. She died after a few days from overheating. 


1959

First Space Probe to Achieve Escape Velocity and Flyby the Moon

Luna 1 was launched January 2, 1959 from a Luna 8K72 rocket from Baikonur Cosmondrome in what is now Kazakhstan. It was intended as an impactor but it missed and moon. It made a flyby of the moon with the closest distance to the moon being 5,995 kms on January 4, 1959.
Credits – RIA Novosti archive, image #510848/Alexander Mokletsov/CC-BY-SA 3.0/Source

Luna 1 was launched on January 2, 1959, from a Luna 8K72 rocket from Baikonur Cosmondrome in what is now Kazakhstan. It was intended as an impactor but it missed and moon. It made a flyby of the moon with the closest distance to the moon being 5,995 km on January 4, 1959.

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First Man-made Object to Impact Another Celestial Object

Luna 2 was launched on September 12, 1959 on a Luna 8K72 rocket. On September 13, 1959, it impacted the moon east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus. Pictured here is Luna 2 in its launch configuration inside the rocket.
Credits – RIA Novosti archive, image #73086 / Alexander Mokletsov / CC-BY-SA 3.0/Source

Luna 2 was launched on September 12, 1959, on a Luna 8K72 rocket. On September 13, 1959, it impacted the moon east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus. Pictured here is Luna 2 in its launch configuration inside the rocket.


First Picture of the Far-side of the Moon

Humanity saw the far-side of the moon for the first time on October 7, 1959, when Luna 3 photographed the Far-side of the moon.

Humanity saw the far side of the moon for the first time on October 7, 1959, when Luna 3 photographed the Far-side of the moon.


First Space Probe to Use Gravity-assist from Another Celestial Body

Luna 3 was also the first space probe to use gravity-assist from another celestial body. To image the far-side of the moon, it used the gravity of the moon to change its trajectory.

Luna 3 was also the first space probe to use gravity assist from another celestial body. To image the far side of the moon, it used the gravity of the moon to change its trajectory.


1961

First Human in Space and to Orbit Earth

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to reach space and orbit the Earth. He returned to the Earth after completing an orbit around the Earth and then parachuting safely after ejecting from his re-entry capsule. This spaceflight was the beginning of the human exploration of Space.

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The First Space Probe to Flyby Another Planet

On May 19, 1961, Venera 1 passed within 1,00,000 km of the planet Venus. However, by this time it had lost contact with the ground control. It made several discoveries regarding solar wind and space plasma. It was launched by USSR on February 12, 1961 atop a Molniya rocket.

On May 19, 1961, Venera 1 passed within 1,00,000 km of the planet Venus. However, by this time it had lost contact with the ground control. It made several discoveries regarding solar wind and space plasma. It was launched by USSR on February 12, 1961, atop a Molniyarocket.


1963

First Woman in Space

Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in Space when she was launched into space on June 16, 1963 by a Vostok-K rocket. She orbited the Earth for three days before landing on June 19, 1963.
Credits – RIA Novosti archive, image #579932 / Alexander Mokletsov /CC-BY-SA 3.0/Source

Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in Space when she was launched into space on June 16, 1963, by a Vostok-K rocket. She orbited the Earth for three days before landing on June 19, 1963.


First Aircraft to Reach Space

Flight 90 of the North American X-15 rocket aircraft reached to a height of 106.01 km on July 19, 1963. It was piloted by Joseph A. Walker.

Flight 90 of the North American X-15 rocket aircraft reached a height of 106.01 km on July 19, 1963. It was piloted by Joseph A. Walker.


1964

First Spacecraft to Flyby Mars

On July 15, 1965, Mariner 1 became the first spacecraft to flyby Mars when it flew 9,846 km from its surface. It was launched on November 28, 1964 by a Atlas LV-3 Agena-D rocket by the USA.

On July 15, 1965, Mariner 1 became the first spacecraft to fly by Mars when it flew 9,846 km from its surface. It was launched on November 28, 1964, by the Atlas LV-3 Agena-D rocket by the USA.


1965

First Space Walk

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first Space Walk on March 18, 1965, when he came out of the Voskhod 2 spacecraft. The Spacewalk lasted 12 minutes 9 seconds
Credits – NASA. Source.

Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first Space Walk on March 18, 1965, when he came out of the Voskhod 2 spacecraft. The Spacewalk lasted 12 minutes and 9 seconds.


1966

First Spacecraft to make a Survivable Landing on the Another Celestial Body

Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to make a survivable landing on the moon. It landed on the moon on February 3, 1966 after slowing down its speed by retrorockets and then using a landing bag.
Credits – Pline/CC BY-SA 3.0/Source

Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to make a survivable landing on the moon. It landed on the moon on February 3, 1966, after slowing down its speed by retrorockets and then using a landing bag.


First Ever Pictures Taken From the Surface of Another Celestial Body

The first-ever photographs were taken from the surface of the moon by Luna 9 lander on February 3, 1966.

The first-ever photographs were taken from the surface of the moon by Luna 9 lander on February 3, 1966.

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First Space Probe to Impact Another Planet

On March 1, 1966, Venera 3 became the first space probe to impact the planet Venus. Launched by USSR on November 16, 1965, its goal was to land on the surface, but its initial trajectory missed Venus by 60,550km. A course-correction made it to impact the surface, but it had lost contact 15 days before.
Credits – Gunter’s Space Page. Enhanced by letsenhance.io.

On March 1, 1966, Venera 3 became the first space probe to impact the planet Venus. Launched by USSR on November 16, 1965, its goal was to land on the surface, but its initial trajectory missed Venus by 60,550km. A course correction made it impact the surface, but it had lost contact 15 days before.


The first docking of two spacecraft in Space

On March 16, 1966, Gemini 8 docked with the Agena Target Vehicle completing the first docking of two spacecrafts in Space.  After docking there was an emergency situation in which the docked spacecrafts began rolling fastly. The two member crew of Gemini 8 had Neil Armstrong, who heroically steadied the spacecraft.

On March 16, 1966, Gemini 8 docked with the Agena Target Vehicle completing the first docking of two spacecraft in Space.  After docking, there was an emergency situation in which the docked spacecraft began rolling fastly. The two-member crew of Gemini 8 had Neil Armstrong, who heroically steadied the spacecraft.

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First Spacecraft to Orbit Another Celestial Body

On April 3, 1966, Luna 10 became the first spacecraft to orbit around the moon. It was launched on March 31, 1966 by USSR.
Credits – Pline/CC BY-SA 3.0/Source.

On April 3, 1966, Luna 10 became the first spacecraft to orbit around the moon. It was launched on March 31, 1966, by USSR.


1968

First Living Beings to Leave Earth’s Orbit, Circle the Moon, and Return Safely to Earth

Zond 5 was launched on September 14, 1968 by the USSR using a Proton-K/D rocket. It carried two tortoises, fruit flies and plants and other species. On September 18, it circled the moon with the closest distance 1,950 km. It splashed down in The Indian Ocean on September 21, 1968.

Zond 5 was launched on September 14, 1968, by the USSR using a Proton-K/D rocket. It carried two tortoises, fruit flies, plants, and other species. On September 18, it circled the moon with the closest distance of 1,950 km. It splashed down in The Indian Ocean on September 21, 1968.


First Humans to enter into Gravitational Influence of Another Celestial Body, Orbit and Return Safely to Earth

Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968 on a Saturn V rocket with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders on board. On 24 December, 1968, it entered into the moon’s orbit and departed for Earth the next day after a Trans-Earth burn.

Apollo 8 was launched on December 21, 1968, on a Saturn V rocket with astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders on board. On 24 December 1968, it entered the moon’s orbit and departed for Earth the next day after a Trans-Earth burn.


1969

First Docking between two Crewed Spacecraft in Earth Orbit and Crew Exchange in Space.

On January 16, 1969, Soyuz 4 docked with Soyuz 5 and exchanged cosmonauts, thus performing the first crewed docking in Space.
Credits – Lunokhod 2/CC BY-SA 3.0/Source. Enhanced by letsenhance.io.

On January 16, 1969, Soyuz 4 docked with Soyuz 5 and exchanged cosmonauts, thus performing the first crewed docking in Space.


First docking around another celestial body

On May 23, 1969 the command module of the Apollo 10 mission docked with the lunar module thus making the first docking around another celestial body.

On May 23, 1969, the command module of the Apollo 10 mission docked with the lunar module thus making the first docking around another celestial body.

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First Man on the Moon/ another Celestial Body

On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, when he came out of the Apollo 11 lunar module into the surface. He is pictured here inside the lunar module.

On July 21, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon, when he came out of the Apollo 11 lunar module into the surface. He is pictured here inside the lunar module.


First space launch of humans from a celestial body other than the Earth and sample return

On July 21, 1969 the Apollo 11 lunar module lifted from the lunar surface and docked with the command module. It was also the first time samples were returned from another celestial body.

On July 21, 1969, the Apollo 11 lunar module lifted from the lunar surface and docked with the command module. It was also the first time samples were returned from another celestial body.


First Rendezvous on Surface of Another Celestial Body

Apollo 12 landed on the moon on November 19, 1969. The astronauts landed close to the landing site of Surveyor 3 probe and visited the probe during one of their spacewalks. They took many pieces of the Surveyor including the TV camera.

Apollo 12 landed on the moon on November 19, 1969. The astronauts landed close to the landing site of the Surveyor 3 probe and visited the probe during one of their spacewalks. They took many pieces of the Surveyor including the TV camera.


1970

First Rover on Another Celestial Body

Lunokhod 1 was a rover taken on the moon by Luna 17 space probe. It descended on the surface on November 17, 1970. It operated for 322 Earth days.

Lunokhod 1 was a rover taken on the moon by Luna 17 space probe. It descended on the surface on November 17, 1970. It operated for 322 Earth days.

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First Spacecraft to Soft-Land on Another Planet and Transmit Data back to Earth

On December 15, 1970, Venera 7 became the first space probe to land on Venus. It was launched on August 17, 1970 by a Molniya 8K78M rocket by USSR.
Credits Emerezhko/CC BY-SA 4.0/Source.

On December 15, 1970, Venera 7 became the first space probe to land on Venus. It was launched on August 17, 1970, by a Molniya 8K78M rocket by USSR.


1971

First Space Station

Salyut 1 was the World’s first space station launched into orbit on April 19, 1971 by the USSR. It orbited the Earth for 175 days before it burned up in the Pacific Ocean after running out of fuel.

Salyut 1 was the World’s first space station launched into orbit on April 19, 1971, by the USSR. It orbited the Earth for 175 days before it burned up in the Pacific Ocean after running out of fuel.


First  Person to Operate a Telescope in Space

In June 1971, Victor Patsayev became the first person to operate a telescope in Space when he used the Orion 1 Ultraviolet Telescope in Salyut 1 station, to study stars.

In June 1971, Victor Patsayev became the first person to operate a telescope in Space when he used the Orion 1 Ultraviolet Telescope in Salyut 1 station, to study stars.


First People to perish in Space

Cosmonauts Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev were killed when a cabin depressurization happened in space on Soyuz 11 when they were returning from Salyut 1 space station on June 29, 1971.

Cosmonauts Georgy Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev were killed when a cabin depressurization happened in space on Soyuz 11 when they were returning from Salyut 1 space station on June 29, 1971.


First Spacecraft to Orbit Another Planet

On November 14, 1971, Mariner 9 entered into an orbit around Mars. It was launched on May 30, 1971 by the USA using a Atlas SLV-3C Centaur-D rocket.

On November 14, 1971, Mariner 9 entered an orbit around Mars. It was launched on May 30, 1971, by the USA using an Atlas SLV-3C Centaur-D rocket.

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