U.S. Space Program Through the Years

July 1, 2004
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This timeline chronicals the U.S. space program through the years.

1962 With astronaut John Glenn Jr. aboard, the Friendship 7/Mercury Atlas 6 spacecraft lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The first NASA Earth-orbital mission, Glenn’s flight followed sub-orbital missions by astronauts Alan Shepard Jr. and Gus Grissom. Photo: NASA


1998 The crew of the space shuttle began construction of the international space station, joining the U.S. built Unity node to the Russian-built Zarya module. The payload camera took this photo of Unity as it is lifted into an upright position for mating to Zarya. Photo: NASA

1947 Test pilot Chuck Yeager, aboard the Bell X-1, breaks the sound barrier.

1956 The Jupiter C rocket, designed by Wernher Von Braun, breaks altitude record of 682 miles and a speed of 13,000 mph.

1958 President Eisenhower signs the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act, which establishes NASA.

1961 John F. Kennedy appears before Congress and delivers his "go to the moon" speech.

1961 In April, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first person in space. A month later, L. Gordon Cooper is the first U.S. astronaut in space.

1962 Astronaut John Glenn, flying the Friendship 7/Mercury Atlas 6 becomes first American to orbit the earth.

1965 Five Gemini spacecrafts are launched. Five more are launched in 1966.

1967 First test flight of the Apollo/Saturn V space vehicle.

1967 Apollo 1 catches fire during a mock launch exercise. The crew of three die of asphyxiation.

1968 Apollo 7 sends back the first live television feed from space.

1969 Lunar module pilot Russell Schweickart aboard Apollo 9 conducts a 37 minute "spacewalk."

1969 Apollo 11 lands on the moon.

1971 Apollo 13 ruptures the service module of the oxygen tank and struggles back to earth.

1972 Apollo 17 lands on the moon. It would be the U.S.' last lunar landing.

1973 Unmanned Skylab space station is launched by Saturn V booster.

1975 The Russians launch the Suyuz capsule and the U.S. launches Apollo spacecraft. The two ships dock on July 17.

1981 STS-1 becomes the first shuttle mission.

1982 STS-5 is the first shuttle used for commercial purposes. Two Canadian communication satellites are deployed.

1983 Sally Ride becomes the first U.S. woman in space.

1986 Columbia explodes 78 seconds into its launch.

1990 STS-31 deploys the Hubble Space Telescope.

1993 Construction begins on the International Space Station. First Hubble telescope servicing accomplished.

1995 STS-71 becomes the 100th U.S. human space launch. The Shuttle, the Atlantis, docks with the Russian Space Station Mir.

1998 STS-88 First International Space Station assembly.

2003 Challenger breaks up over Texas during reentry. Shuttles are grounded.

2005 (projected) STS-114 is scheduled to be the next Shuttle to return to space.

2010 (projected) ISS is completed and the Shuttle is phased out.

2015-2020 (projected) A human expedition is sent to the moon.

2020 (projected) Exploration continues to Mars and the solar system.

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