The Space & Beyond Blog

The most important events of early human spaceflight | Space Race timeline

A timeline of the Space Race and the history of early human spaceflight

Three people holding a rocket overt their heads

Bill Pickering (left), James Van Allen (center), and Wernher von Braun (right) triumphantly hold a model of Explorer 1 above their heads the day after it became the first American satellite to orbit the Earth on January 31, 1958. Photo: NASA/JPL

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Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov
Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov trains for the Apollo-Soyuz mission in April 1975. Photo: NASA
Nixon looking at astronauts in a recovery ship

President Richard M. Nixon welcomes the Apollo 11 astronauts aboard the USS Hornet, the recovery ship for the mission, where they are quarantined. From left to right: Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin. Photo: NASA

A pressurized cosmonaut suit

Following the only deaths to have ever occurred in space, the USSR started a policy requiring all cosmonauts to wear pressurized spacesuits during reentry. Photo:

An artist's illustration of the docking mission
Soviet cosmonauts and American astronauts shake hands in orbit as the two nations’ spacecraft dock during the Apollo-Soyuz mission, as seen in this artist’s illustration. Phto: NASA/Davis Meltzer
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