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John Glenn Wednesday, 21 October, 1998, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Cosmic stories
The 20th century will go down in history as the age of space exploration. Here's a selection of the most significant leaps forward in the struggle to go where no one has gone before.


A dog in space

The Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik 2 on 3 November 1957, carrying a dog called Laika.

But Laika was never to return to Earth and died from overheating and panic just a few hours after the mission started. Her cabin burned up on re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere.


First man in space

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human to see Planet Earth from space.

On 12 April, 1961, his Vostok 1 spacecraft lifted him to an altitude of 200 miles and carried him once around the Earth.

"The Earth is blue" - he said in awe and his words became world famous.

Gagarin was killed during a routine training flight in 1968.


America follows

Three weeks after Gagarin's space flight, the USA launched a Mercury spacecraft carrying astronaut Alan Shepard.

In February 1962, John Glenn made the first US flight around the globe.


Russian walks in space...

The first extravehicular activity (EVA) in space was performed from a Russian Voskhod spacecraft by the cosmonaut, Aleksey Leonov, on 18 March 1965.

Three months later, Edward White emerged from the Gemini 4 capsule to become the first American to walk in space.


..But the US takes the first moonwalk

Following ten test flights, Apollo 11 was finally launched on 16 July 1969. Four days later, Neil Armstrong climbed out of the hatch of the lunar module, backed down a small ladder and became the first person to set foot on the Moon.

Still regarded as the most remarkable human exploration to date, it put the Americans ahead of the Russians in the space race.


Joint efforts

The first international co-operative space flight took place when a US Apollo spacecraft docked with a Soviet Soyuz craft while in orbit over the Earth on 18 July 1975.

However, the first ever space rendez-vous had actually taken place in 1965 between two US Gemini flights.


Is there anyone out there?

The unmanned US Viking probes in 1976 answered the question on everyone's lips - is there life on Mars?

They landed on the surface of the red planet and relayed pictures of the rocky surface back to Earthlings. No living organisms were found.


Shuttle era

The advent of the space shuttle, the world's first re-usable orbital spacecraft, came in the form of Columbia in 1981.

Four orbiters were built, but one - Challenger - exploded moments after lift-off in 1986 killing all seven crew, including one woman.

There were no further space shuttle flights until 1988, when Discovery made a successful round trip. In 1989, Atlantis was used to launch the space probe, Galileo.


Starry-eyed view

Nasa's Hubble Telescope was launched on 24 April 1990 by the Space Shuttle Discovery to give astronomers a closer look at some of the furthest planets in the universe.

The first image - a star cluster in Carina - was received on 20 May, and has since peered deeper into space than ever before, taking images of galaxies as they were when the universe was a fraction of its present age.

The Hubble's most recent images of the distant planet, Uranus, show its Saturn-like rings and some of its 17 moons.


Old enemies on new projects

The most important step towards international co-operation in space was taken in 1995 when the US Shuttle Atlantis docked at the Russian Space Station Mir, marking an official end to the space race.

The oldest components of Mir have been in orbit for 12 years and the arrival of Atlantis provided the means for hauling people and things back and forth between Earth and a space station.

Mir and Atlantis have paved the way for the International Space Station situated in orbit 190 miles above the Earth. Research projects are scheduled to begin in 2000.

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