Arms and Space Race Timelines

US Arms Race

Ivy Mike

November 1952

The United States test the first fusion bomb, "Ivy Mike".

First Thermonuclear Weapon

February 1954

The United States detonates its first deliverable thermonuclear weapon at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. The device had a yield twice as large as expected, leading to the worst radiological disaster in US history.

US-UK Mutual Defense Agreement


The United States and the United Kingdom sign the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defence Agreement. This is a bilateral treaty on nuclear weapons cooperation signed after the United Kingdom successfully tested a hydrogen bomb during Operation Grapple.
(Picture of H-Bomb from Operation Grapple)

Soviet Union Arms Race

Baruch Plan Denial


Soviet Union rejects the Baruch Plan. Main idea of it was to implement control of nuclear power to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes along with other basic ideas.

Soviets first Hydrogen Bomb

August 1953

The Soviet Union conducts its first test of a hydrogen bomb, nicknamed Joe 4 by the Americans.

Tsar Bomba

October 30, 1961

Soviet Union detonates the largest most powerful nuclear weapon ever.


January 1965

The Soviet Union detonates Chagan as part of their Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy series to study the peaceful use of nuclear explosions.

USSR develop defensive ABM system


US Space Race

Explorer 1

January 31, 1958

Explorer 1, the first American satellite to reach orbit, is launched. It carried scientific equipment that lead to the discovery of the Van Allen radiation belt

Explorer 2

March 5, 1958

Explorer 2 is launced but it fails to reach orbit.


March 17, 1958

The Vanguard 1 satellite is launched. It continues to function for 3 years.


October 1, 1958

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is formed, it replaces the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA)

Pioneer 1

OCtober 11, 1958

Pioneer 1 is launched to a height of 70,700 miles.

First Man on the Moon

July 20, 1969

Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first men to walk on the Moon while crewmate Michael Collins orbits around the Moon alone.

Soviet Union Space Race

Sputnik 1

October 4, 1951

USSR launches Sputnik 1

Sputnik 2

November 3, 1957

USSR launches Sputnik 2 which carried a small dog named Laika into orbit

Luna 1

January 2, 1959

Luna 1 is launched by the USSR. It is the first man made object to orbit the Sun

Luna 2

September 12,1959

Luna 2 is launched. It impacts the Moon on September 13, becoming the first man-made object to do so

Luna 3

October 4, 1959

Luna 3 orbits the Moon and photographs 70% of its surface.