Milestones In Space Exploration
Faizan Hashmi 7 days ago Wed 07th April 2021 | 09:20 AM
The beach ball-sized aluminium sphere takes 98 minutes to orbit the Earth and sends back the first message from space, simple "beep-beep-beep" radio signals.
A month later Sputnik 2 carries the first living being to fully orbit the Earth, a small street dog called Laika. She dies after a few hours.
Twenty-three days later Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space when he makes a 15-minute trip.
It takes a full 40 years for the old Cold War rivals to be joined in space by a third country, when China sends up Yang Liwei onboard Earth orbiter Shenzhou 5.
Between 1969 and 1972, 10 astronauts -- all American -- walked on the Moon as part of NASA's Apollo programme.
- 1971: Space station - The Soviet Union launches the first orbital space station, Salyut 1, on April 19, 1971.
Another Russian space station, Mir, follows. It is brought back to Earth in 2001 after 15 years in orbit.
Construction of the still-operating International Space Station (ISS) starts in 1998. The biggest man-made structure in space, it orbits Earth 16 times a day.
- 1976: Mars - US spacecraft Viking 1 becomes the first to successfully land on Mars on July 20, 1976 and sends back images of the Red Planet.
About 40 missions are sent to Mars, more than half of which fail.
It is followed by Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, which serve the ISS until the shuttle programme winds up in 2011.
The US has since depended on Russia to transport its astronauts to the ISS.
Two US shuttles were destroyed in flight, with the loss of 14 astronauts: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003.
- 1990: Hubble - Hubble is the first space telescope to be placed into orbit on April 25, 1990, 547 kilometres (340 miles) above the Earth.
It revolutionises astronomy, allowing scientists to observe the planets and distant stars and galaxies unimpeded.
After flights in 2020, SpaceX has planned two other manned launches for NASA to the ISS in 2021, including one which will lift off from Florida on April 22 with French, American and Japanese astronauts.
- 2014: Comet landing - The European Space Agency places a small robot, Philae, on a comet more than 500 million kilometres from Earth on November 12, 2014. The first comet lander is part of a mission aiming to explore the origins of the Solar System.
The manmade object that is furthest away from the Earth is the unmanned US spaceship Voyager 1, launched in 1977 and still travelling.
- 2021: Moon to Mars - NASA sees the Moon as a pit stop for missions to Mars. It aims to send the first woman to the Moon by 2024.
Perseverance became the fifth rover to set wheels down on Mars on February 18, laying the groundwork for NASA's first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet.