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NASA Timeline


NASA Timeline: The main events of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration can be seen in the comprehensive NASA timeline.

The NASA Timeline
Interesting NASA Timeline including the Apollo space missions and moon landings, the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station (ISS), the Hubble Space Telescope and the Mars Exploration Rovers (MERs).

1915: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was a U.S. federal agency founded on March 3, 1915. NACA was replaced by NASA in 1958.

1957: USSR launch Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite on October 4, 1957

1957: The Soviets launch Sputnik 2, just a month later on 3 November 1957. Sputnik-2 carried a  female dog named Laika into space.

1957: Vanguard TV3 was the first attempt by the United States to launch a satellite into orbit around the Earth but America's first satellite fails in a launch pad explosion on December 6, 1957

1957: The Cold War Space Race (1957 - 1975) begins

1958: The United States successfully launched its first artificial satellite called the 'Explorer' satellite on February 1, 1958 under the US Army's Jupiter project. The Explorer satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

1958: The top secret Discoverer, the forerunner to the later Corona, Argon, and Lanyard spy satellite missions and defence projects were run by the CIA and the military and would operate an independent space program that would work in parallel with NASA

1958: The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 was sent to Congress on 2 April 1958

1958: The National Aeronautics and Space Act was signed into law on 29 July, 1958 and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established replacing NACA.

1958: NASA began its operations on October 1, 1958 and Pioneer 1 was the first spacecraft launched by NASA on October 11, 1958 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1958: Pioneer 1 became the first spacecraft launched by NASA on October 11, 1958 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1958: NASA research pilot John McKay was on the last flight in the Bell X-1 Rocket plane on November 7 1958.

1958: On December 18, 1958, an Atlas booster missile was used to launch the Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment (SCORE) satellite that transmitted the first message from space to Earth. The communication was a pre-recorded Christmas message from President Eisenhower.

1959: The NASA Earth-orbiting weather satellite, Vanguard 2, was launched on February 17, 1959

1959: Project Mercury (1959-1963) began as the first US human spaceflight program rivaling the Soviet Vostok program. Project Mercury was followed by the Apollo and Gemini projects.

1959: The NASA unmanned spacecraft Pioneer 4 was launched on March 3 1959 from Cape Cape Canaveral to the Moon with a lunar probe and successfully made the first U.S. lunar flyby.

1959: The NASA Astronaut Corps began on 9 April 1959 to select and train astronauts for Project Mercury

1959: A Jupiter missile was launched on 28 May 1959 that carried and recovered two monkeys after a suborbital flight.

1960: USA Corona Spy Satellite - successful recovery of photographs from space

1960: The NASA meteorological satellite TIROS 1 was launched on April 1, 1960 to monitor Earth’s weather.

1960: Transit 1B, the first experimental orbital navigation system was launched on April 13, 1960

1960: Project Echo was the first passive communications satellite experiment. Echo 1 balloon satellite was launched on 12 August 1960.

1961: On 12 April 1961 Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to enter space and safely come back to Earth.

1961: Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space in a suborbital flight on May 5 1961 on the Mercury-Redstone 3, or Freedom 7 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1961: Project Gemini (1961 - 1966) followed Project Mercury to develop space travel techniques to support Apollo's NASA mission to land astronauts on the Moon.

1961: On 25 May 1961 President John F. Kennedy made his "Urgent National Needs" speech, committing the United States and NASA to land on the Moon by the end of the decade.

1961: The second piloted flight of a Mercury spacecraft, Liberty Bell 7, took place on 21 July 21 1961 when astronaut "Gus" Grissom undertook a sub-orbital mission.

1961: NASA Administrator James E. Webb announced on September 19 1961 that the site of the NASA center dedicated to human space flight would be Houston, Texas. It became known as the Manned Spacecraft Center and was renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973.

1961: The first NASA successful test of the Saturn I rocket was accomplished on October 27, 1961

1962: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962, making three orbits in his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. His 15-minute suborbital flight ended with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

1962: Two more of the 'Mercury Seven' astronauts went into space. Scott Carpenter flew in Aurora 7 on May 24, 1962 and Walter Schirra flew in the Sigma 7 on October 3, 1962

1962: NASA launched Telstar l, the first privately built communications satellite, on July 10 1962. Telstar transmitted the first telephone and television signals that were carried via satellite.

1962: Mariner 2 made the first successful planetary flyby of Venus on December 14, 1962

1963: Astronaut L. Gordon Cooper circled the Earth 22 times in 34 hours on May 15-16 1963 aboard the Mercury capsule Faith 7 in the final Mercury space mission.

1964: Saturn SA-5 the largest launch vehicle to date sent 19 tons into orbit during a test flight on January 29 1964

1964: The first Apollo Command Module was launched on May 28, 1964 as an automated test flight atop a Saturn I in preparation of the lunar landing program.

1965: Following two robotic test flights, Gemini III undertook the first operational mission of Project Gemini took place on 23 March 23, 1965

1965: Astronaut Edward H. White II piloted the second operational Gemini mission June 3-7, 1965 and performed the first spacewalk by an American.

1966: Neil A. Armstrong and David Scott performed the first orbital docking on March 16, 1966 as part of the Gemini project successfully coupling two spacecraft.

1966: Surveyor 1 landed on the Moon on June 2, 1966 and transmitted more than 10,000 photographs of the surface.

1967: During a simulation aboard Apollo-Saturn 204 on January 27, 1967 at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center a flash fire broke out in and the pure oxygen atmosphere of the capsule was engulfed by fire. The three astronauts aboard, Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee, all died of asphyxiation. As a result of this accident the Apollo program was delayed until the spacecraft could be redesigned.

1967: The first NASA test flight of the Saturn V rocket took place on November 9, 1967.

1968: Apollo 8 Manned Moon Orbit was launched atop the Saturn V booster from Kennedy Space Center with three astronauts, Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders on December 21 1968. The crew transmitted images of the "blue marble" Earth hanging in space.

1969: The Apollo program (1969 - 1972) followed Project Gemini aiming to land the first humans on the Moon

1969: The First Man on the Moon. Apollo 11 was the first lunar landing mission with astronauts July 16 – 24, 1969. Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin were able to walk on the Moon whilst Michael Collins orbited overhead in the Apollo command module.

1969: The Apollo 12 mission (14-24 November 1969) in which astronauts Charles Conrad, Richard Gordon, and Alan Bean go to the Moon for second manned landing.

1970: The flight of Apollo 13 (April 11-17,1970) was one of the near disasters of the Apollo program. 2 days and 8 hours into the flight of Apollo 13, the oxygen tank in the service module burst damaging several of the electrical and life support systems. All crew members of Apollo 13 were able to return safely to Earth.

1971: Apollo 14 (January 31- February 9, 1971) was the third lunar landing mission. Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell went to the Moon whilst Stuart Roosa piloted the Command Module. Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell performed nine hours of moonwalks and brought back 98 pounds of lunar samples.

1971: Apollo 15 (26 July 26 - August 7 1971) was the fourth lunar landing mission with astronauts David R. Scott, Alfred M. Worden and James B. Irwin and the lunar rover.

1971: Mariner 9 was launched on November 13, 1971 and was the first NASA mission to orbit another planet (Mars).

1972: NASA administrator James C. Fletcher met with President Richard M. Nixon on January 5 1972 and the decision was made to proceed with the Space Shuttle development.

1972: Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were launched from Kennedy Space Center to the planet Jupiter in the outer Solar System.

1972: Apollo 16 (April 16-27, 1972) made the fifth landing on the Moon with astronauts John Young, Thomas Mattingly II, and Charles Duke.

1972: Landsat 1 was launched on July 23, 1972 from Kennedy Space Center on an Earth resource mapping mission.

1972: Apollo 17 (December 7-19 1972) was the last of the six Apollo missions to the Moon with a three-member crew consisting of Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt.

1973: Skylab, a small orbital space platform, was launched on 14 May 1973. Skylab became home to three crews of astronauts during 1973–1974 for periods of 28, 59, and 84 days, respectively.

1975: The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (July 15-24, 1975) was the first joint international human space flight effort. The first multi-national manned missions ending the Cold War Space Race.

1975: Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975 from Kennedy Space Center on a trip to Mars. The Viking 1 probe landed on Mars on July 20, 1976.

1977: The first NASA Space Shuttle orbiter, Enterprise (OV­101), was launched on February 18, 1977. Tests demonstrated that the Space Shuttle could fly attached to the Boeing 747 creating the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.

1978: The first of two spacecraft called Pioneer Venus were launched on May 20, 1978 to study the Venusian atmosphere.

1980: The Solar Maximum Mission was launched on 14 February 1980 to study the Sun in detail.

1981: The first Space Shuttle Columbia flight was launched in April 1981.

1982: The Space Shuttle Columbia, launched November 11-16, 1982 in which the astronauts deployed two commercial communications satellites.

1983: The Space Shuttle Challenger was launched April 4-9 1983.

1983: Sally K. Ride became the first American women to fly in space on the seventh Space Shuttle STS-7 mission (June 18-24 1983) on the Space Shuttle Challenger.

1983: On August 30, 1983 Guion S. Bluford became the first African American astronaut on the Space Shuttle Challenger.

1983: On November 28, 1983 the Space Shuttle Columbia transported Spacelab 1, the first space laboratory.

1984: On January 25, 1984 President Ronald Reagan made the announcement to build a Space Station within a decade.

1986: On January 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger, STS-51L, was destroyed during its launch from the Kennedy Space Center. The terrible accident was witnessed as millions of people around the world saw the accident on television. Its crew of seven were all killed.

1986: The Mir space station was launched by the Soviet Union on February 19, 1986 was launched on February 19, 1986

1989: The NASA Magellan mission to Venus was launched on May 4, 1989 and arrived at Venus in September 1990. With the use of radar Magellan mapped 99% of the surface of the planet.

1989: President George H. W. Bush made a speech on July 20, 1989 announcing plans for the Space Exploration Initiative to send astronauts back to the Moon and to Mars. The mission failed to survive.

1989: The NASA Galileo spacecraft and probe was launched on 18 October 18, 1989 to begin a gravity assisted journey to Jupiter.

1990: The Hubble Space Telescope was launched from the Space Shuttle Columbia on April 24, 1990.

1992: First flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour May 2-16, 1992.

1992: The NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour was launched on December 2, 1993. The astronauts conducted a successful mission repairing the optics of the Hubble Space Telescope.

1994: Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev became the first Russian to fly aboard a U.S. space shuttle (February 3-11, 1994) with American astronauts Charles F. Bolden and Kenneth S. Reightler, Jr.

1995: The NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to the Mir Space Station (27 June – 7 July 1995). It was the first of nine Shuttle-Mir link ups between 1995 and 1998 that were to include docking procedures and crew transfers.

1995: On August 7, 1996 NASA announced that a team of its scientists uncovered evidence, but not conclusive proof,  that microscopic life may have once existed on the planet Mars.

1996: On February 17, 1996, Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft became the first to orbit and land on an asteroid.

1996: The Mars Pathfinder, an American robotic spacecraft with a roving probe, was launched on a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral on  4 December 1996.

1997: On January 13, 1997 NASA scientists announced the discovery of three black holes in three different galaxies. Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope it was discovered that Black Holes once powered quasars (the nuclei of galaxies).

1997: NASA’s Earth Observing System launched a series of artificial satellite missions in Earth orbit designed for long-term global observations of the land surface, atmosphere, biosphere and oceans of the Earth.

1997: The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) spacecraft, a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), was launched on 27 November 1997 to monitor tropical rainfall

1997: The international Cassini space probe mission left Earth bound for Saturn on October 15, 1997

1998: Lunar Prospector was launched on January 6, 1998 for a one-year polar mission to explore the Moon for water and minerals.

1998: The first piece of the International Space Station was launched on November 20, 1998.

1999: The Stardust comet mission was robotic space probe launched on February 7, 1999 to collect dust samples from the comet Wild 2.

1999: The NASA Landsat 7, part of the series of Landsat satellites to map Earth’s Surface, was launched on April 15, 1999 providing images useful in the fields of agriculture, geology and forestry.

1999: The NASA QuikSCAT / SeaWinds satellite, measuring Ocean Winds from Space, was launched on 19 June 1999 to help understand global climate change and weather patterns.

1999: Terra, a climate research satellite, was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California by NASA on December 18, 1999.

1999: The Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor Satellite (ACRIMSAT) was launched on December 20, 1999 to measure the sun’s total energy output and to helps scientists to better predict changes in climate.

2000: ISS Expedition One with astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, docked at the International Space Station (ISS) on November 2, 2000 and stayed there for several months.

2000: EO-1 the Earth Observing Mission NASA satellite was launched on November 21, 2000 to demonstrate new technologies for improved Earth observations.

2001: Genesis was a sample return probe that was launched on August 8, 2001 to collect a sample of solar wind and return it to Earth for analysis.

2001: Jason-1, the NASA Ocean Surface Topography Mission satellite was launched on December 1, 2001 to improve forecasting of climate events.

2002: The GRACE twin satellites, measuring changes in Earth’s Gravitational Field, were launched by NASA on March 17, 2002 to help scientists to measure the changing mass of polar ice caps.

2002: NASA’s Aqua satellite, measuring Earth’s Water Cycle was launched on May 4, 2002 providing info on the temperatures of air, land, and water.

2002: The Comet Nucleus Tour, or CONTOUR, mission on July 3, 2002 to study comets in the solar system

2003: SORCE, the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment NASA satellite was launched on January 25, 2003 long-term climate change and the effects of solar changes on Earth

2003: STS-107 was the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program. On February 1, 2003 the last flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia (January 16, 2003 – February 1, 2003) ended in tragedy when it broke up in the atmosphere 15 minutes before its scheduled landing. The seven crew members were all killed.

2004: Two Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on the Martian surface in January 2004 and continue to explore Mars today.

2004: Following a seven-year, two-billion-mile journey, the Cassini – Huygens spacecraft became the first spacecraft to go into orbit around Saturn. The Cassini – Huygens spacecraft which was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 15, 1997 completed the two billion mile journey to go into orbit around Saturn on January 14, 2004..

2004: On January 14, 2004 President George W. Bush made a speech announcing the new 'Vision for Space Exploration' aimed at achieving a manned return trip to the Moon by 2020, in preparation for human exploration of Mars and other destinations by NASA.

2004: The Aura satellite mission, dedicated to the Health of Earth’s Atmosphere, was launched by NASA on July 15, 2004

2004: SpaceShipOne, a suborbital air-launched spaceplane completed the first manned private spaceflight on September 30, 2004.

2005: The Deep Impact mission on January 12, 2005 sent a copper projectile to gather info about the structure of a comet

2005: The Discovery Program: The launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery on July 26, 2005 marked NASA’s first return to manned spaceflight after the Columbia tragedy that occurred on February 1, 2003.

2006: The New Horizons spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral January 19 2006 starting its 9 year journey to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt.

2006: CloudSat (Revealing the Inner Secrets of Clouds) NASA satellite was launched on April 28, 2006

2006: The Phoenix lander, a robotic spacecraft on a space exploration mission on Mars, was launched on August, 4 2007 under the Mars Scout Program.

2007: The Dawn mission was launched September 27, 2007 on a journey in both space and time by traveling to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Vesta and Ceres.

2008: The Jason-2 Ocean Surface Topography Mission NASA satellite was launched on June 20, 2008 to improve forecasting of climate events and measure global sea-level change

2009: The Kepler Mission was launched on March 6, 2009 carrying the first space telescope designated to search for Earth-like exoplanets.

2011: Messenger, a robotic spacecraft was launched on March 18, 2011 to make the first orbit of the planet Mercury.

2011: The Aquarius mission satellite was launched by NASA on 10 June 2011 to enhance the understanding of the climatic interactions between the global water cycle and ocean circulation.

2011: On September 10, 2011 the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission launched on a Delta II rocket to put twin satellites around the Moon to map the Moon's interior and its gravitational pull

2012: The Voyager 1 mission launched the first manmade probe into interstellar space on August 25, 2012.

2014: The Rosetta mission launched the first man-made probe on November 12, 2014 to make a planned and soft landing on a comet.

2015: On March 6, 2015 the Dawn mission made the first orbit of the dwarf planet (Ceres).

2015: The New Horizons mission completed the first flyby of dwarf planet (Pluto) in July, 2015.

2016: The InSight mission, scheduled to launch in March 2016, to place a geophysical lander on Mars to study its interior.

US American History
1945-1993: Cold War Era

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