In 1955, the United States and the Soviet Union began planning space satellites for launch to Earth orbit during the International Geophysical Year 1957-1958.
In January 1967, while training for the first U.S. Apollo mission, astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee died in a flash fire in their spacecraft on the launch pad. U.S. manned flights stopped for almost two years.
In April 1967, the USSR's Soyuz 1 flight ended in tragedy when the capsule's descent parachute did not open. Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov died in the crash landing. Soyuz flights stopped for 18 months.
Rangers were the first U.S. try for close-up images of the Lunar surface. The spacecraft flew straight into the Moon, sending pictures until impact. Three succeeded, six failed.
Surveyor probes were the first U.S. spacecraft to land safely on the Moon.
Lunar Orbiters mapped 99 percent of the lunar surface in search of Apollo landing sites.
The USSR built on shuttle, Buran, which lifted off on its maiden voyage November 15, 1988. Buran means snowstorm in Russian. It was lifted to space by an Energia rocket, completed two orbits, and made an automated landing. No people were aboard. It never flew again as the USSR collapsed in 1991.
Seven astronauts, Francis R. "Dick" Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnik, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair, Gregory B. Jarvis, and Sharon Christa McAuliffe, were killed when one of Challenger's solid-fuel booster rockets leaked, leading to a massive liquid-fuel tank explosion above the Cape Canaveral launch pad.
The Soviet Union had launched eight space stations between 1971 and 1986.
The United States had launched one space station, in 1973. It was used only in 1973-74.
The International Space Station (ISS) was born in 1998.
Apollo 11 landed at Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility)
Apollo 12 at Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), a large young area of the Moon previously visited by the unmanned probes Luna 9, Luna 13, Surveyor 1 and Surveyor 3
Apollo 14 at the Fra Mauro formation cone crater
Apollo 15 at at Hadley Rille
Apollo 16 at Cayley-Descartes formation in the lunar highlands
Apollo 17 at at Taurus-Littrow, a highland area on the border of Mare Serenitatis
Unable to steal the thunder
60 miles of audio tape recording ABC, CBS and NBC broadcasts
500 newspapers from 50 states and seven countries
185 different July 21, 1969, day-after newspaper front pages from Anchorage to Rome
personal letters from Neil Armstrong before and after Apollo 11
gifts from the first man to walk in space, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov
even a single sheet of white paper bearing the signatures of each of the 12 men who walked on the Moon
Minerals in the Moon rocks were mostly the same as in Earth lava, although three new minerals were discovered. One was named Tranquillityite for the Apollo 11 landing site. Another was labeled Armalcolite for Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. The third new mineral was named Pyroxferroite.
Tripping merrily across the dusty and orange soil, these guys picked up a lotta rocks in a short time...
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin collected 48.5 lbs. of rocks during 21 hours 36 minutes on the Moon.
Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt, the first geologist in space, found the most colorful stuff on the Moon -- orange glass -- near Shorty Crater. That suggested the possibility of ice within the Moon.
Soil and rocks from the Moon were not returned only by Americans. In 1970, the USSR's unmanned probe Luna 16 landed at Mare Foecunditatis and picked up 101 grams of soil, sealed it in a box, and launched itself back to Earth. That was the first automated sample retrieval from another celestial body.
Everybody wants in on the fun. Japan said in 1996 it hopes someday to land a soil sampler and moonquake measurer on the Moon. Equipment aboard an Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) unmanned lander would penetrate the lunar soil.
The next year, in 1971, U.S. Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin landed on the Moon at Hadley Rille. They drove the first manned Moon rover, a four-wheel battery-powered vehicle, 17 miles along the front of Apennine Mountain. They picked up rocks and soil and sunk probes which revealed a hot interior of Moon, maybe radioactive decay.
Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt, in 1972 during man's sixth and last landing on the Moon, in the Littrow Valley at the foot of the Taurus Mountains, took the longest ride in a Moon car. They drove their lunar rover 21 miles at speeds of up to nine mph. Unfortunately, Cernan snagged a hammer and ripped the fender on the rover. He patched it with plastic Moon maps. He also dented the rover's tires driving over rocks.
1984: Second American woman in space, second American woman in orbit - Dr. Judith A. Resnik flew in shuttle Discovery August 30, 1984. Two years later, Dr. Resnik died when the shuttle Challenger exploded during lift-off in 1986. 1984: First woman to go to space twice - Svetlana Savitskaya flew to the Salyut 7 space station in August 1982 and again in July 1984. 1984: First American woman to go to space twice - Sally Ride rode twice in Challenger, in June 1983 and October 1984. 1984: First American woman to take a spacewalk - Dr Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan 1984: First women together in space - Kathryn Sullivan and Sally Ride flew together in shuttle Challenger in October 1984. 1984: First mother in space - Dr. Anna Lee Tingle Fisher, M.D., flew in shuttle Discovery in November 1984.
1989: First woman on a U.S. military flight - Dr. Kathryn Ryan Cordell Thornton flew aboard shuttle Discovery on a secret mission in November 1989. Later, in 1992, she flew on the maiden flight of the new shuttle Endeavour, which replaced Challenger.
1992: First black woman in space - U.S. astronaut Dr Mae Carol Jemison.
1995: First woman to pilot a space shuttle - U.S. astronaut Eileen Marie Collins. Four years later, she would be the first woman space shuttle commander.
1996: Space endurance record for women and overall U.S. space endurance record - U.S. astronaut Dr Shannon Matilda Wells Lucid in six months aboard the Russian space station Mir. Altogether, Shannon Lucid spent 223 days in space during five space flights, including 188 days aboard Mir space station in 1996. She was the first American to take a spacewalk at Mir. (By comparison, even though the stay in space in 2001 for U.S. astronaut Susan Helms and her two fellow International Space Station Expedition 2 crew members was extended by almost a month because of problems with the robot arm, it still was three weeks shy of NASA's space endurance record.)
1997: Russian woman with most time in space - cosmonaut Yelena Vladimirovna Kondakova flew a total of 178 days, including 169 days aboard space station Mir in 1994 and nine days in a U.S. shuttle flight to Mir in 1997.
Susan Helms 1999: First woman space shuttle commander - U.S. astronaut Eileen Marie Collins.
2001: First woman crew member of the International Space Station - U.S. astronaut Susan Jane Helms. She stayed there 165 days bringing her total in space to 210 days during five flights. She also was the first female amateur radio operator to communicate directly with hams on the ground via amateur radio from the space station.
2002: First ISS science officer, first woman to spacewalk at the space station - To highlight ISS research, Dr. Peggy A. Whitson, a biochemist, became the station's first resident scientist when she flew as part of the Expedition 5 crew. It was her first spaceflight and Dr. Whitson logged 184 days in space. Dr. Whitson ventured outside on August 16 for an EVA of 4 hours 25 minutes to install micrometeoroid shielding. As science officer, she conducted 21 investigations in human life sciences, microgravity sciences and commercial payloads.
2003: Second women to die during spaceflight - Dr. Kalpana Chawla and Dr. Laurel Clark were aboard shuttle Columbia when it disintegrated over Texas on February 1, 2003. The entire crew of seven died.
15 Years in Orbit
As the crown jewel of the space program of the former Soviet Union, Mir station floated in orbit above Earth for fifteen years from 1986 to 2001.
A Soviet rocket carrying the first module for the Mir blasts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The new station has six docking ports for spacecraft and laboratory modules. The first Mir crew, Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Soloviev, fly in a Soyuz capsule from the station's predecessor station, Salyut-7, to the new station.
Kvant-1, an add-on module, is the first addition to Mir. After a rendezvous failure, the two Mir cosmonauts inside Mir spacewalk outside the station where they find and remove a bag of trash wedged in the docking port. Docking of Kvant then proceeds.
Astronauts return to Mir after a four-month hiatus due to trouble with Soyuz transport ships at Baikonur.
Kvant-2 is added to Mir. This 19-ton module has a large airlock which improves spacewalking capabilities.
Japanese journalist Toyohiro Akiyama of the Tokyo Broadcasting System visits Mir briefly and reports from the station.
Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev reaches Mir for a mission of more than one year three months during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Later, he became the first Russian to fly on the U.S. space shuttle and, even later, one of the first three residents of International Space Station Alpha.
Great Britain's Helen Sharman visits Mir on a privately financed trip. She is a chocolate researcher for a candy company who had won a contest to become Britain's first astronaut.
A Progress supply vessel separates from Mir and unfurls a giant banner of foil, which Russian researchers hoped could be used to shine sunlight on Arctic cities during dark winters.
Mir resident Valery Polyakov sets a record of 438 days in space.
American astronaut Norman Thagard goes to Mir.
Another module is added to Mir and the first U.S. space shuttle arrives at Mir to take astronaut Thagard and two cosmonauts back to Earth.
American astronaut Shannon Lucid arrives at Mir.
Ten years after its construction in space began, Mir station is completed with the arrival of a module named Priroda.
American astronaut John Blaha arrives at Mir.
American astronaut Jerry Linenger arrives at Mir.
An oxygen-generating canister bursts into flames during a routine ignition forcing the two cosmonauts on board to fight a fire. The fire filled the station and its emergency Soyuz escape capsule with smoke, forcing comsonauts Vasiliy Tsibliev and Alexander Lazutkin to put on gas masks and put out the fire.
American astronaut Mike Foale arrives at Mir.
Tsibliev and Lazutkin faced deadly danger again when, during a docking test, a cargo ship crashed into Mir. It was the worst collision ever in space. The impact created a hissing air leak, which the two miraculously located and sealed off.
American astronaut David Wolf arrives at Mir.
Andy Thomas, the last American to stay aboard Mir, leaves for earth.
As Proton rocket ferries the first segment of the new international space station Alpha to orbit -- the Russian module Zarya -- NASA presses the Russian space agency to bring Mir down from orbit, because of concerns over the aging station's safety.
The 27th crew to Mir lands back on Earth. No replacement crew is sent up.
Financed by MirCorp -- private investors hoping to keeping Mir alive as a destination for wealthy tourists -- cosmonauts Alexander Kaleri and Sergei Zaletin travel up to Mir to become the last two persons to live on the old station. They come down to Earth after a two-month stay. A U.S. businessman buys a roundtrip ticket for $20 million.
As the first Alpha crew prepares to fly to the new International Space Station, Russia decides to bring Mir down in March 2001. The concept of Mir as a space hotel ends.
Mir completes 15 years in orbit, surpassing its planned life of less than five years.
Mir ends in a fiery descent as the Russians command the old station to a lower orbit. Most of the 130-ton outpost burns up over the South Pacific between Australia and Chile, although 30 tons may have survived re-entry through Earth's atmosphere to splash into the ocean.
Lived Aboard Russia's Mir Station
Days aboard: 115
Dates: 1995 March 16 - June 29
Days aboard: 179
WORLD RECORD: FEMALE SPACE ENDURANCE
U.S. RECORD: ASTRONAUT SPACE ENDURANCE
Dates: 1996 March 24 - September 19
Days aboard: 118
Dates: 1996 September 19 - 1997 January 15
Days aboard: 122
Dates: 1997 January 15 - May 17
Days aboard: 134
Dates: 1997 May 17 - September 28
Days aboard: 119
Dates: 1997 September 28 - 1998 January 25
David Wolf was born in Indiana on August 23, 1956. He worked as a doctor for the Air Force before he became an astronaut in 1990. As an astronaut, Wolf made two spaceflights. He flew aboard shuttle flight STS-58 in 1993, spending 14 days studying the effects of microgravity on the body. In 1997, Wolf became the sixth American to live aboard Russia's Mir space station, but only after the assigned astronaut, Wendy Lawrence, turned up too small to fit a Russian spacesuit. Wolf also didn't fly to Mir until after NASA Administrator Dan Goldin assured the U.S. Congress that the station was a safe place to live in space. Wolf then went to orbit aboard shuttle flight STS-86 in 1997. After the shuttle STS-86 crew docked with the Mir space station, Wolf went aboard Mir where he studied life sciences for four months. Wolf's flight was mostly free of troubles. He took one spacewalk.
Days aboard: 130
Dates: 1998 January 25 - June 4
The end of World War II came in 1945, when Hiroshima and Nagasaki, two Japanese cities, were each destroyed by a single atomic bomb. Rocketry suddenly took on a new, terrifying image. The 1-ton payload of the German V2 only caused limited damage: it was an unstoppable terror weapon, but strategically insignificant. Now that destructive power could be increased 20,000 times. Ten years later, when the H-bomb was perfected, that ratio climbed into the millions.
This realization, in the years after World War II, turned the military into a major supporter of rocket development, especially in the US and in the USSR, the Soviet Union (now the Russian republic and its allies). Though many people still dreamt of exploring space, the support money--for a while at least--went to the development of missiles.
The early military rockets were actually quite adaptable to scientific uses. The military sought "Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles" (ICBMs) able to hit any point on Earth, and for this they had to be able to impart a velocity very close to the one needed to achieve an orbit above the atmosphere. Both the US and the USSR concentrated on liquid-fueled rockets. The US captured a fair number of usable V2s, as well as the German rocket-design team headed by Wernher von Braun, who soon took a key role in the development of US missiles. The USSR also captured V2 engines, and Russian rocket designers, headed by Valentin Glushko and Sergei Korolev ("Koralyov") duplicated those rockets and then went on to develop their own, more powerful designs.
Scientific rockets made possible, for the first time, studies of high altitude phenomena and observations of the Sun in ultra-violet wavelengths, usually blocked by the atmosphere. Among those active here was James Van Allen, who in the late 1940s sent Geiger counters, detectors of fast ions and electrons, to high altitudes aboard Aerobee and V2 rockets. Aware that rockets wasted a great deal of energy overcoming air resistance, he and his team at the University of Iowa later suspended small scientific rockets from high-altitude balloons and fired them by remote control once they were above the bulk of the atmosphere. In 1953 one such rocket was fired into the polar aurora ("northern lights
By international agreement 1957-8 was declared as the "International Geophysical Year" (IGY), a time for special international efforts to study the solid Earth, the ocean, atmosphere and the Earth's space environment. The US announced that it planned to launch at that time a small satellite with a radio beacon, the "Vanguard", using a multi-stage rocket based on the Viking technology. Unofficially Von Braun also prepared a military rocket for launching a satellite, which Van Allen's group at the University of Iowa provided, but he was not permitted to do so ahead of the official Vanguard mission.Sputnik Korolev's R-7 "Semiorka"
rocket, similar to the one that
launched the Sputniks.
The USSR also announced its intention of launching artificial Earth satellites during the IGY, but the US and its allies did not take that announcement seriously. They were unaware of the long development of Russian long-distance rockets, leading to Korolev's R7 rocket, the Semiorka ("little number seven"), a huge vehicle powered by 20 rocket engines. It was not only a very effective launcher, but also rather beautiful to behold: four tapered first-stage rockets, each with a cluster of 4 engines, surrounding the main vehicle which was powered by a cluster of its own.
The US tried but failed to launch its Vanguard satellite on December 6, 1957. The margin of extra lifting power of the Vanguard's first stage was rather small, and in the critical first seconds it did not rise fast enough to safely lift the rocket off the pad; instead the rocket toppled and burned. Today all space launches employ clamps to hold the rocket down during those seconds, until full thrust is achieved; if you ever watch the countdown of a spaceflight launch, you might note that "ignition" comes a short instant before "lift-off. " It wasn't so in the early days. Later launches of "Vanguard" lifted off successfully, but it was the 1957 failure that is remembered.
In view of the success of Sputnik and the failure of Vanguard, Von Braun's launch plan was given the go-ahead, and on January 31, 1958, it orbited the first successful US satellite, Explorer 1 (launch picture on right). Aboard it was Van Allen's Geiger counter, and a similar spacecraft, Explorer 3, followed it in March (Explorer 2 failed).
Van Allen had planned to observe the cosmic radiation, high-speed ions (atoms stripped of electrons) from the distant universe. In particular, it sought to measure the flow of cosmic ray ions of the lowest energies, which are completely absorbed by the atmosphere and therefore cannot be studied from the ground (the recent Sampex mission studied such particles, with much better instruments). Unlike the orbits of the Sputniks, that of Explorer 1 was quite elliptic, rising to altitudes above 2000 km.
At the higher altitudes, strangely, the rate of cosmic ray particles recorded by the Geiger counter dropped to zero. The reason was found by Explorer 3, which showed that at the higher elevation the actual radiation was so high that the instrument became overloaded. This way was discovered the belt of "trapped radiation" (that is, of trapped ions and electrons) extending around the Earth, held by the Earth's magnetic field.Exploring Further
More of the story of the discovery of the radiation belt is told here, part of an extensive overview "
3 books on the history of spaceflight, reviewed by Alex Roland in Nature,. . . .
"Countdown: A History of Spaceflight" by T. A. Heppenheimer, 398 pp., Wiley 1997.
"Korolev: How One Man masterminded the Soviet Drive to Beat America to the Moon", by James Harford, 292 pp. Wiley, 1997.
(Also reviewed by Alan Wells in New Scientist, 19 July 1997, p.44)
Something New Under the Sun: "Satellites and the Beginnings of the Space Age" Helen Gavaghan, 300 pp. , Copernicus, 1998.
A superb sourcebook on all aspects of spaceflight--history, vehicles, missions, etc.: "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Space" edited by Michael Rycroft, Univ. of Cambridge Press, 1990. Related book in French: "Le Gran Atlas de l'Espace," Encyclopaedia Universalis, 1989.
Blazing the Trail, the Early History of Spacecraft and Rocketry, by Michael Gruntman, 503pp, published by AIAA (Amer. Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics), 2004.