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A 50 year timeline of spaceflight

For 50 years, Flight has charted the exploration of space. Now, for the first time, our remarkable library of images and articles is available in the Flight Archives and 50 years of spaceflight slideshow in AirSpace.

Flight International has covered the space age from its beginning when Sputnik 1 shocked the world with its simple beep signal as it orbited the Earth. Sputnik, Laika the dog, Gagarin, Shephard, Glenn, Tereshkova - all of these seminal missions were reported on by Flight International's staff of writers during those darkest days of the Cold War

With exclusive cutaways of the 1960s Moon launchers developed by NASA, as well as other vehicles, Flight's International's archive, being added to every week, is a treasure trove that could compete with the collections of any of the world's major space agencies.

The challenges of this new age were covered in depth, with reports on the failure of the Soviet Union to beat the USA to the Moon the bittersweet ending of the Apollo programme after six successful missions Russia's new firsts with its Salyut series of space stations and record-breaking manned mission durations the development of the Space Shuttle and its subsequent achievements and tragic disasters the slow burn of Europe's Ariane rockets to eventually provide a competitive commercial satellite launch service the conception, development and deployment of the world's largest joint space project, the construction of the International space Station (ISS) the rise of Asia's Chinese and Indian space programmes and the dawning of commercial human spaceflight.


4 October 1957:

Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1, the World's first orbiting artificial satellite

12 April 1961:

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin is first man to orbit the Earth

5 May 1961:

NASA astronaut Alan Shephard is first American in space

25 May 1961:

US President John F Kennedy announces intention to land men on the Moon by 31 December 1969

20 February 1962:

NASA astronaut John Glenn is first American to orbit the Earth

3 February 1966:

Soviet Union's Luna 9 is first spacecraft to soft land on Moon

27 January 1967:

Apollo 1 crew die on launch pad in fire

24 April 1967:

Soviet Soyuz 1 capsule crash-lands killing its cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov

20 July 1969:

Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle lands on the Moon's Sea of Tranquility

19 April 1970:

Soviet Union launches the first space station Salyut 1

30 June 1971:

Soviet Soyuz 11's three crew killed by asphyxiation on re-entry

14 December 1972:

Final Apollo mission, Apollo 17 leaves the Moon

14 May 1973:

US space station Skylab launched

17 July 1975:

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project docking

20 July 1976:

NASA's Viking 1 lands on Mars


NASA's spacecraft Voyager 2 and 1 launched on 20 August and 5 September

12 April 1981:

Space Shuttle Columbia launches on first Shuttle flight with pilots John Young and Robert Crippen

28 January 1986:

Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 73s into ascent

20 February 1986:

Soviet space station Mir launched

15 November 1988:

Soviet space shuttle Buran flies unmanned on first and only flight

24 April 1990:

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope launched

1 February 2003:

Space Shuttle Columbia breaks up on re-entry killing all crew

15 October 2003:

China launches firstastronaut Yang Liwei

21 June 2004:

SpaceShipOne makes first privately funded suborbital flight into space

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