During the Cold War, the US and the USSR began to develop technology in order to explore space. The public in both countries took great pride in these space programs, and as more achievements were made, national excitement increased.
A long, thrilling race began to be the first country to put a satellite in space and, ultimately, an astronaut on the Moon.
First animals in space (February 20, 1947)
The US sends the first animals into space. They are fruit flies, launched on board a German-designed V-2 rocket from World War II.
First satellite orbit of earth (October 4, 1957)
The USSR’s Sputnik 1, the world’s first artificial satellite, orbits Earth. The US is shocked and surprised at this success, and increases efforts on its own space program.
First animal in orbit (November 3, 1957)
Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow, is the first animal to orbit Earth, on Russia’s Sputnik 2. She is sent to test the effects of spaceflight on a living creature.
NASA formed (October 1, 1958)
The US founds the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a federal agency dedicated to space exploration.
First US astronauts selected (April 9, 1959)
The first US astronauts are selected by NASA, before human spaceflight operations begin.
Soviet astronaut selection process (August 1959)
The Soviet air force’s research institute, NIIVVS, starts recruiting astronauts for future missions.
First Soviet spacecraft on the Moon (September 12, 1959)
Luna 2 is launched to the Moon. It is the first spacecraft to land on the Moon and the first man-made object to land on a body in space.
First human in space (April 12, 1961)
Yuri Gagarin, an astronaut from the USSR, is the first human to journey into outer space. His spacecraft, Vostok 1, is launched and orbits the Earth.
First American in space (May 5, 1961)
Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space, in the spacecraft Freedom 7. It flies 116 miles (187 km) high and returns safely to Earth.
Kennedy announces the space race (May 25, 1961)
President Kennedy makes a speech announcing his intention to race the Soviets to put a human on the Moon.
USSR tests rockets for manned mission (July 3, 1969)
The second test of the USSR’s N1 rocket, which is planned to take the first human to the Moon, ends in disaster when it is destroyed in one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in human history.
First human on the Moon (July 20, 1969)
The US sends humans to the Moon in Apollo 11. Neil Armstrong is the first human to walk on the Moon, and his co-pilot Buzz Aldrin is the second.
Apollo launches: Apollo 11 was the first crewed mission to land on the Moon. The astronauts’ journey would not have been possible without the extremely powerful Saturn V rocket. On the morning of July 16, 1969, the huge three-stage rocket, towering 361 ft (110 m) above its launch pad in Florida, lifted Apollo 11 away from Earth and into low Earth orbit. Its upper stage then blasted the craft on its epic 950,000-mile (1.5 million-km) journey to the Moon.