Science Timeline


First Liquid Rocket Engine

March 16, 1926

Robert Goddard tested the first liquid-propelled rocket engine. Used gasoline and liquid oxygen. Worked on and solved number of problems in rocket design, including pumping mechanisms, cooling strategies, and steering arrangements

R-7 Rocket


Could produce approximately one million pounds of thrust. When launching Sputnik, weighed about 660,000 pounds.

Sputnik 1

October 4, 1957 - January 6, 1958

Sputnik 1 was traveling at a speed of 18,000 miles per hour on an elliptical orbit. Perigee: 150 miles Apogee: 558 miles.
Circled the Earth every 96 minutes, inclined 65 degrees to equator. Covered most of the inhabited parts of the world. Visible during twilight and ran over most major U.S. cities.

TASS announcement

October 4, 1957

Told of Sputnik's launch, and how the U.S.S.R. was planning to launch more within the year.

Sputnik Launched

October 4, 1957

Sputnik launched to amazement of the world; U.S. caught flatfooted. This was the world's first artificial satellite and the first man made object to be placed into earth's orbit. (Sputnik means Traveler) Sputnik was launched by a R-7 rocket.

Sputnik Reaction

October 5, 1957

Willy Ley (participated in German rocket experiments in '20s): "great propaganda victory," "unimpressed," Expressed doubt about weight.
Dr. John P. Hagen (director of project Vanguard) said that Vanguard would be much more precise.
Ted Lewis predicted that Congress would demand faster development of missile programs.
Eisenhower's press secretary James Hagerty: declared announcement no surprise; claimed they weren't in space race

Sputnik Details

October 9, 1957

A report detailing the construction of the satellite was issued to the public, but not that of the rocket.

Sputnik 2

November 3, 1957

Sputnik 2 launched with the mongrel husky Laika on board, a stray retrieved from Moscow. This was a breakthrough, as a living animal had not been sent to space before. Laika was reported to have been painlessly euthanized, but in reality she died of heat exhaustion after 4 days (120 degrees in cabin) due to faulty temperature control. The total mass was 1,118 pounds. This lasted 162 days in orbit

Explorer 1 Launched


Designed by Werner von Braun.

NASA formed


NASA was created by President Dwight Eisenhower (National Aeronautics and Space Administration); it is a federal agency dedicated to space exploration. Two other national-security oriented space programs were also created that would aid NASA. The first was spearheaded by the U.S. airforce and dedicated itslef to exploiting the military potential of space. The second was led by the CIA, the air force, and a new organization called the National Reconnaissance Office, was code named Corona.

Luna 2


Luna 2 was the first space probe to hit the moon.

Project Ranger

December 1959

Made to reconnoiter special Apollo Zone, strip of moon centered at equator. Managed by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California (also managed Mariner, Voyager, Surveyor, and Galileo) was supposed to transmit first close-up views of moon's surface showing details as small as 10 feet across

Ranger 1-5

December 1959

One and two failures; 3, 4 and 5 carried science experiments in addition to cameras. Contained 2 foot diameter spherical instrument package in balsa would ball. 70,000 feet above moon ball would eject and fire retrorockets so package could survive hard landing at just under 150 mph. All failed. 4 crashed into far side; first to reach lunar surface on April 26, 1962

Surveyor Program


Surveyor had a starring role in the scientific investigation of the Moon. Two versions-orbiter and lander. First would survey broad areas from above. Second would perform detailed studies on surface below.


1961 - 1964

NASA's budget increased almost 500 percent between 1961 and '64. The Lunar Landing program included 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industrial and university contractors.

Project Mercury Final Test Flight

March 1961

Project Mercury was the U.S.'s effort to send a man into space; the cone shaped capsule was far lighter than Vostok was. The final test flight in March included chimpanzees

First Man in Space/Vostok 1

April 1961

The Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit Earth traveling in Vostok 1.

Alan Shepard

May 5, 1961

Alan Shepard was the first American to go into space aboard Mercury. He did not make it into orbit though.

John Glenn

February 1962

John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth.

Lunar Orbiter


Lunar Orbiter emerged as new project for recon spacecraft. Langley prepared design specs, and Boeing Company won the prime contract to produce the spacecraft. Atlas Agena D chosen as launch vehicle.

Lunar Orbiter Specs


High def 70mm photographic film. Dual lens camera offered medium res pics (80mm lens) of broad regions and high res pics (610mm lens) of specific targets. The slow speed of film and high speed over lunar surface was needed to eliminate image blurring. Special V/H Sensor measured Lunar Orbiter's velocity and height then signaled image motion compensation mechanism which advanced film slightly during each exposure

Ranger 6

January 30, 1964

Carried television cameras designed to transmit high res pics of Moon before hit surface at 6000 mph. Failure. Flew to target in Sea of Tranquility, but had electrical short fry cameras.

Ranger 7

July 28, 1964

Agena rocket put craft into orbit around Eath then sent it on course to Moon. July 31, 1964, Ranger 7 started transmitting 4,308 clear pics of moon. Final images 1000 times more detailed than any recorded by Earthbound telescopes. Sea it crashed into named Mare Cognitum (the Known Sea)

Ranger 8

February 20, 1965

Returned 7,137 pictures then crashed into Sea of Tranquility. Many showed Lunar Highlands and twin flat bottomed craters Ritter and Sabine that looked like giant calderas.

Ranger 9

March 24, 1965

Impacted Moon in crater Alphonsus; clearly volcanic origins. 5,814 pics; broadcasted to Earth real time; Live from the Moon appeared first time on home TV

Death of Sergey Korolyev

January 14, 1966

Sergey Korolyev was the chief engineer of the Soviet space program. His role was finally revelaed after he died.


February 3, 1966

Luna-9 achieved the first 'soft' landing on the Moon; however, had a cosmonaut been on board he would not have survived the crash. Just before the main capsule impacted the moon a probe much like Rangers 3-5 was ejected, which was protected by two balloons. Four metal petals opened up exposing a rotating camera which produced a series of crude panoramas. This stole the thunder from the Surveyor series, and was the first spacecraft on the surface of the Moon (and working)

Surveyor 1

May 30, 1966

Launched from the Cape aboard an Atlas-Centaur rocket. The Centaur second stage was powere dby two RL-10 engines (first to operate in space with liquid hydrogen as fuel). Power provuded by solar panel mounted on a mast at the top of the triangular shaped spacecraft. Carried two thermally controlled compartmetns for electronic equipment as well as auxilary storage battery. The Hughes Aircraft Company produced the spacecraft. The target was near the crater Flamsteed and was a smooth area encirlced by hills and low mountains that marked a ghost crater, or an anceitn depression flooded by lava flows in the distant past.

Lunar Orbiter 1

August 10, 1966

First pictures taken August 18; problem with V/H Sensor. Blurred most of the high res images. returned with 207 medium res images unaffected by faulty sensor showing Apollo Zone targets as well as detailed images of the moons far side. One picture caught worlds imagination; first photo taken of Earth in vicinity of Moon. Showed cloud covered crescent shaped Earth hanging over Barren lunar landscape it offered a preview of more dramatic scenes to come.
Also, deviations noted in its orbit; due to this mass concentrations called mascons of material buried beneath the lunar maria were discovered.

Crash of Lunar Orbiter 1

October 29, 1966

A command sent it into the Moon so the signals would not interfere with Lunar Orbiter 2.

Lunar Orbiter 2

November 6, 1966

Lunar Orbiter 2 was sent to survey the Apollo Zone again; this time there were no problems with the image motion compensatin mechanism. The spacecraft returned sharp photos of the lunar surface including breathtaking view of crater Copernicus (hailed as Picture of the Century) showed 2,000 foot central peaks and terraced walls with carpathian mountains in the distance all set against jet black lunar sky.

Lunar Orbiter 3

February 5, 1967

Returned high quality pics of the Apollo Zone; this completed Lunar Orbiter's mapping function. Also photographed Surveyor 1 spacecraft resting on lunar surface. Obtained close ups of meandering tracks left by huge boulders rolling down crater walls.

Lunar Orbiter 4

May 4, 1967

Goal to photograph entire near side of Moon. Included 163 images with wide angle pictures of the Orientale Basin on the Moon's far side. Huge and multi ringed, this impact basin looked like giant bulls eye. Orientale appeared to be yougest of large circular lunar basins; only partly filled with dark volcanic material. Had four well-preserved mountain rings

Lunar Orbiter 5

August 1, 1967

Returned 212 photos; combined pics of all 5 missions covered 99% ofmoons surface.

Apollo 8

December 1968

Apollo 8 launched, and was the first manned mission to orbit the moon. Launched from Merritt Island near Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Soviet Failure

July 1969

Launch pad explosion hindered Soviet progress.

Launch/Landing of Apollo 11

July 16, 1969 - July 20, 1969

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were launched to the moon. They landed on the 20th, and Armstrong became the first man on the moon.

Waning Interest


The government's interest in Space was lacking after the Space Race was won.



Sent 3 U.S. astronauts into space aboard an Apollo spacecraft that docked in orbit with a Soviet made Soyuz vehicle. The commanders of the two crafts officially greeted each other with a handshake.