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Wednesday, 1 April, 1998, 08:02 GMT 09:02 UK
Space Firsts
H.G. Wells: 'It seemed such a little thing, so bright and small and still'
1879: Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935), the father of space travel establishes the basics of rocket science. His 'Rocket Equation', which determines flight velocity, is still used in the design of modern rockets. He also wrote the first theoretical description of a man-made satellite.

1898: Publication of H. G. Wells' landmark science fiction novel, The War of the Worlds.

1926: Robert Hutchins Goddard launches the first rocket propelled by liquid fuel from a farm near Auburn, Massachusetts on March 16 1926. It flew for 2.5 seconds, at 12 metres per second - an average speed of 100 kilometres per hour. He went on to develop faster, longer-range rockets.


Laika - the first dog in space
October 4: The USSR launches Sputnik 1. The world's artificial satellite, Sputnik was propelled into earth's orbit using a 2-tier rocket.

November 3: Soviet satellite Sputnik 2, which carried the dog Laika was successfully launched. Laika was never to return to earth and asphyxiated after a week in orbit. Her cabin burned up on re-entry to the earth's atmosphere.


January 31: Launch of the first artificial satellite by the United States, the 14-kilogram Explorer. A Geiger counter on board produces the first scientific discovery made by spacecraft: the Van Allen belts.


January 2: The USSR launches Lunar 1, which becomes the first space vehicle to reach escape velocity. Passing by the Moon at about 6000km on January 4, it becomes the first artificial planet of the Sun.

September 12: The Soviet Lunar 2 probe lands on the Moon's surface, becoming the first man-made object to reach a celestial body. It hits the Moon on September 14, near the crater Archimedes.

October 4: The USSR's Lunar 3 probe travels to the far side of the moon, successfully photographing it for the first time. 24 Soviet lunar probes were launched between 1959 and 1976


The Vostok 1 capsule
April 12: The Soviet Union launches the first manned space vehicle, Vostok 1, on 12 April, which completes a single orbit of the Earth. "The Earth is blue" - the words of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first human to travel in space, became globally famous.

May 5: Three weeks after Gagarin's space flight, the US launched a Mercury spacecraft, carrying astronaut Alan Shepard. His colleague Gus Grissom followed on a similar mission, and in February 1962 John Glenn made the first US orbital flight. The Mercury Project continued until 1963.

1963: In June, the final mission of the solo-crew Vostok series of spacecraft was the world's first space flight by a woman, astronaut Valentina Tereshkova, in June 1963.

1965: The 3-man Voskhod spacecraft was launched, and cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov undertook the first-ever spacewalk on March 18.

1969: The Apollo 11 crew made the first human landing on the Moon on 20 July. Apollo landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Spacecraft commander Armstrong and astronaut Buzz Aldrin spent two hours on the lunar surface setting up observation equipment and collecting rock samples. After this, Apollo lunar flights reached number 17, though Apollo 13 had to turn back because of problems with its electrical power supply.

The earliest successful Sputnik satellite
1970: After several failed attempts by the US and the USSR, the first soft landing on Venus was achieved by the Soviet Venera 7 spacecraft. Venera 7 sent photographs and observation data back to Earth, including a reading of 470 degrees Celsius at the Venusian surface.

1972: The US launch Pioneer 10 on March 2, which becomes the first space vehicle to fly past Jupiter, (on December 3, 1973), and thereby achieve solar escape velocity. In June 1983 it becomes the first space vehicle to pass beyond the orbit of Neptune. The probe is still returning data to Earth.

1975: A US Apollo spacecraft docks with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft while in Earth orbit on 18 July. This was the first international co-operative space flight. The two nations' flight crews visited each other's spacecraft and had meals together.

1976: US Viking probes 1 and 2 land on the Martian surface to look for the possibility of life. No living organisms were found.

The Space Shuttle Columbia's maiden voyage
1981: The United States launched the Space Shuttle Columbia, the first reusable manned spacecraft.

1984: President Reagan approves the International Space Station project.

1990: Hubble Space Telescope launched on April 24 by the Space Shuttle Discovery. The first image - of a star cluster in Carina - was received from the telescope on 20 May.

1999: September 5 will mark 10 years of continuous manned occupation of low Earth orbit by astronauts on Mir and the International Space Station.

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