Timeline of Key Events during the US Space Program

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1950s
1957
1958
1959
1960s
1960
1961
1962
1963
1964
1965
1966
1967
1968
1969
1970s
1970
1972
1973
1975
1977
1978
1980s
1981
1983
1984
1985
1986
1988
1989
1990s
1990
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000s
2000
2001
2003
2004
2005
2006
2008
2009
2010s
2010
2011

1957


October 4, 1957
Project Vanguard was managed by the United States Research Laboratory (NRL) and intended to launch the first artificial satellite into orbit using a Vanguard rocket from the Cape Canaveral Missile Annex.

Nasa Project Vanguard rocket exlodesNasa Project Vanguard rocket on fire

Project Vanguard Launched - Universal Newsreel - 1957-12-09 Satellite A Bust (License: Creative Commons)

Project Vanguard Launched (License: Creative Commons WM)

 

November 1957
Explorer program was relaunched in response to the surprise Soviet launch of Sputnik 1.

Nasa Artists Impression of Explorer 1 being heldNasa Preparing Explorer

1958


January 31, 1958
United States launches Explorer I from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Nasa Explorer 1 Design Schumatic

NASA Explorer 1 - The Beginning of the Space Age (License: NASA Public Domain)

NASA Explorer 1 Launch (License: Creative Commons WM)

 

October 1, 1958
NASA is formed after Congress passes the National Aeronautics and Space Act.

NASA formedFinal Meeting of NACA when NASA formed
 

October 11, 1958
NASA launches its first spacecraft, Pioneer 1, a Thor-Able space probe.

Atrists Impression of Pioneer 1 TrajectoryPioneer 1 Development

Pioneer 1 - United States Space Explorations 1958 pt1 (License: Creative Commons WM)

 

December 18, 1958
Launch of "SCORE" (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment) communications payload. Atlas 10B/SCORE, the first voice relay satellite, was used to relay President Eisenhower's Christmas message which was the first voice transmitted from space.

SCORE Launch Atlas B with Score payload

1959


Mercury program launched (1959 - 1963)
Project Mercury was the Unites States first human spaceflight program and its goal was to put a human into orbit around the Earth. The program included 20 unmanned launches, followed by two suborbital and four orbital flights with astronaut pilots.

Project Mercury Cone AssemblyProject Mercury Assembly

Pioneer 4 (License: Creative Commons WM)

Project Mercury Project (License: Creative Commons WM)

 

March 3rd, 1959
Pioneer 4 launched to the Moon, successfully completing the first US lunar fly-by returning radiation data.

Pioneer 4 AssemblyPioneer 4 Meeting

1960


Nov 8, 1960
First flight of a production Mercury spacecraft. Little Joe 5 was launched from Wallops Island, Virginia. Sixteen seconds after liftoff, the escape rocket and the tower jettison rocket both fired prematurely. Also, the booster, capsule and escape tower failed to separate as intended.

Project Mercury Ballistic Capsule Cut-away

Project Mercury-Redstone 1 Launch - 1960 NASA Educational Documentary (License: NASA Public Domain)

1961


May 5, 1961
With the launch of Freedom 7, Alan Shepard becomes the first American man in space. The suborbital flight, which was part of the Mercury Project, lasted 15 minutes, 28 seconds.

Allan Shepard Prior to Freedom 7 LaunchLaunch of Freedom 7 with Alan Shepare on boardRecovery of Alan Shepard Freedom 7

Launch of Freedom 7 with Alan Shepard (License: NASA Public Domain)

 

May 25, 1961
U.S. President John F. Kennedy, in response to political pressure resulting from Russia's successful launch of Sputnik 1, announces the goal of sending astronauts to the moon before the end of the decade.

John F. Kennedy's Moon Speech to Congress (License: Creative Commons)

 

Apollo program launched (1961 - 1972)
Commencement of the Apollo program which was created to achieve the national goal of 'landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth'. The program operated from 1961 to 1972.

Commencement of Apollo Program Apollo_1_patchEarly Apollo Configuration for Direct Ascent

1962


February 20, 1962
Launch of Friendship 7 (also part of the Mercury Project) makes astronaut John Glenn the first American to orbit the Earth. Total flight time was just shy of five hours.

John Glenn climbing into Friendship 7Launch of Friendship 7

NASAFriendship 7 Launch (License: NASA Public Domain)

1963


May 15, 1963
Faith 7 sends astronaut Gordon Cooper into space and he becomes the first American to spend over a day in space. Total flight time was 1 day, 10 hours and 19 mins.

Recovery of Faith 7Launch of Faith 7Gordon Cooper Faith 7

Flight of Faith 7 (License: AV Geeks granted permission to use this video)

 

Gemini Program Launched (1963 - 1965)
Gemini program initiated to develop space travel techniques in support of the Apollo missions. The program ran between 1963 and 1966 and resulted in ten manned flights.

Gemini PatchGemini Program LaunchedGemini Spacecraft Cut-away

1964


April 8, 1964
First test flight of the Gemini program. It did not have humal life support systems. Although it featured a heat shield, the shield had four large holes drilled in it to make sure that the spacecraft was destroyed during reentry. In place of the crew couches were measuring equipment that relayed telemetry measuring the pressure, vibration, acceleration, temperature, and structural loads during the short flight.

Gemini 1 Take OffGemini 1 Launch Mission Control

1965


January 19, 1965
Gemini II suborbital flight to test heat shield. Shortly after launch the Mission Control Center suffered a power outage. Control of the mission was transferred to a tracking ship. The outage was later traced to an overload of the electrical system from the network television equipment used to cover the launch.

Gemini 2 Re-entry Mission 1965 NASA Educational Documentary (License: NASA Public Domain)

 

March 23, 1965
Gemini III first manned flight of the Gemini program. The spacecraft, nicknamed Molly Brown, performed the seventh manned US spaceflight and was the final manned flight controlled from Cape Canaveral, Florida before mission control functions were shifted to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas.

Gemini 3Gemini 3 Equipment Arrangement

Gemini 3 First ever Spacewalk (License: NASA Public Domain)

Gemini 3 Spacewalk Training NASA Educational Documentary (License: Discovery Creative Commons)

 

June 3-7, 1965
Gemini IV first space walk. The second piloted Gemini mission stayed aloft for four days and astronaut Edward H. White II performed the first EVA or spacewalk by an American.

Gemini 5 Astronaughts Pete Conrad Jr and Gordon Cooper JrGemini 5 Launch
 

August 21, 1965
Launch of Gemini V, carrying astronauts Gordon Cooper and Charles Conrad on an eight-day mission to test rendezvous guidance and navigation systems, as well as study how humans could handle long-term exposure to a space environment. Gemini would be the critical link between the early Mercury Project and the Apollo missions.

Gemini 6a LaunchGemini 6a in Orbit
 

December 15, 1965
Gemini VI-A successfully completes the first ever space rendezvous.

Gemini V1A Rendezvouz (License: Creative Commons)

1966


January 20, 1966
First fully operational test flights of the Launch Escape System (LES). LES consisted of a top-mounted rocket connected to the crew module of a crewed spacecraft and was used to quickly separate the crew module from the rest of the rocket in case of emergency.

LES Launch Escape Vehicle ConfigurationLaunch of Little Joe Launch Escape System TestLaunch Escape System Test

LES Launch Escape System (License: Creative Commons)

 

March 16, 1966
Gemini VIII manned by astronauts Scott and Armstrong, successfully complete the first docking with another space vehicle.

First Successful Docking with another Vehicle and First Emergency Landing (License: Creative Commons)

 

November 11, 1966
Gemini XII is the final flight of the Gemini program. Astronauts Lovell and Aldrin Rendezvoused and docked manually with its target and kept station with it during EVA. Aldrin set an EVA record of 5 hours 30 minutes for one space walk and two stand-up exercises, and demonstrated solutions to previous EVA problems.

Gemini XII Crew Aldrin and LovellGemini XII Aldrin on EVA 2Gemini XII Aldrin on EVA

1967


January 27, 1967
Mission AS-204 is struck by tragedy when a flash fire breaks out during a launch pad test, killing three astronauts: Virgil Grissom, who had participated in Mercury and Gemini flights; Edward White, who conducted NASA's first extravehicular activity; and new astronaut Roger Chaffee. The mission, one of NASA's first major setbacks, was later renamed Apollo 1.

AS-204 Damace VehicleAS-204 Crew Grissom White and Chaffee

AS-204 Disaster (License: Creative Commons)

 

November 9, 1967
First test flight of the Saturn V rocket, which would carry dozens of spacecraft into space in the years to come.

Apollo 4 AssemblyApollo 4 on launch pad in early morning of Nov 9 1967

1968


January 22, 1968
Apollo 5 was the first unmanned test flight of the Lunar Module.

Apollo 5 on Launch PadLunar Module Assembly for Apollo 5 launchDelivery of Lunar Module to KSC for Apollo 5 launch
 

October 11, 1968
Apollo 7 was the first Apollo manned mission and orbited the earth for 11 days to test the Command Module which had been redesigned following the Apollo 1 fire.

Apollo 7 in OrbitApollo 7 CrewApollo 7 launch

Apollo 7 (License: Creative Commons)

 

December 21, 1968
Apollo 8, the second crewed mission in the Apollo space program, was the first human spaceflight to leave Earth orbit.

Apollo 8 ReentryApollo 8 CrewApollo 8 LaunchMoon photo taken from Apollo 8

1969


July 16, 1969
Launch of Apollo 11, the mission that would fulfill President John F Kennedy's goal of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union.

Apollo 11 LaunchApollo 11 Crew

Apollo 11 Launch (License: NASA Public Domain)

 

July 20, 1969
Milestone for NASA - Astronauts Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Neil Armstrong become the first men to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong said "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind", just after stepping onto the Moon's surface.This was a big milestone for NASA

Apollo 11 JumpApollo 11 Lunar Module on the MoonApollo 11 Flag on the MoonApollo 11 on the Moon

Apollo 11 Moon Landing (License: NASA Public Domain)

1970


April 11, 1970
Apollo 13 was launched. The lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later. Despite enormous problems caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water and the critical need to jerry-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17. Commanded by James Lovell and also manned by John Swigert and Fred Haise.

Apollo 13 Improvised Co2 ScrubberApollo 13 LaunchApollo 13 Mission Control CelebratesApollo 13 Damaged Service Module

Apollo 13 Houston We Have A Problem (License: NASA Public Domain)

Slow motion capture of Apollo 13 Launch from NASA Camera E72 (License: NASA Public Domain)

1972


March 2, 1972
The Launch of unmanned Pioneer 10 provided a bunch of firsts for the space program. Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were robotic space probes. Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972 and its mission was to send back data and images of Jupiter. It was the first spacecraft to fly through the asteroid belt, fly to Jupiter and make close-up observations, Saturn, the Milky Way Galaxy and reach escape velocity to leave our Solar System. Pioneer 10 sent its last communication back to Earth on January 22, 2003, while 7.6 billion miles from home.

Pioneer 10 on Launch PadPioneer 10Launch of Pioneer 10
 

December 7, 1972
Apollo 17 was the final launch of the Apollo program. Mission commander Eugene Cernan was the last person to leave the Moon's surface.

Apollo 17 crewApollo 17 FlagApollo 17 Lunar Rover VehicleApollo 17 CraterApollo 17 on the pad at night

Apollo 17 Orange Soil (License: NASA Public Domain)

Singing on the Moon (License: NASA Public Domain)

LROC Explores Apollo 17 Landing Site (License: NASA Public Domain)

Lift off from the Moon (License: NASA Public Domain)

1973


May 14, 1973
United States launches its first experimental space station, the Skylab. Skylab orbited the Earth from 1973 to 1979, and included a workshop, a solar observatory, and other systems.

Skylab launchSkylab in OrbitSkylab Cut-awaySkylab Astronaughts

1975


July 15, 1975
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project is the first international manned space flight to test out cooperated space rescue and docking. This was the first joint U.S.- Soviet space flight.

Apollo Soyuz LaunchApollo Soyuz CrewApollo Soyuz Stamp

Apollo Soyuz Test Project (License: NASA Public Domain)

 

August 20, 1975
Launch of Viking 1, the first orbiter and lander sent to Mars. Viking 2 would launch a few weeks later. Both landed safely on Mars and for six years sent back the first set of images and data from the Martian surface.

Viking 1Viking 1 schumaticViking 1 photo of Mars surface

1977


August 12, 1977
ALT-12 - First free flight of the Space Shuttle. Enterprise was built for NASA as part of the Space Shuttle program to perform test flights in the atmosphere. It was constructed without engines or a functional heat shield, and was therefore not capable of spaceflight. It was originally planned to be named Constitution. A campaign by fans of the television show 'Star Trek' to President Gerald Ford asked that the orbiter be named after the Starship Enterprise, featured on the television show. Although Ford did not mention the campaign, the president said that he was "partial to the name" and overrode NASA officials.

Enterprise launch facilityEnterprise test flight crewEnterprise test flight seperation

Enterprise 747 Take off (License: Creative Commons)

 

August 20, 1977
Launch of Voyager 2, one of a pair of spacecraft sent by NASA on what was supposed to be a five-year mission to study Jupiter and Saturn. Voyagers 1 and 2 continue to send back pictures and data today, 30 years later from nearly 10 billion miles away.

Voyager 2 in orbitVoyager 2 LaunchVoyager 2 Schumatic
 

September 5, 1977
Launch of Voyager 1. Voyager 1 would later return some incredible images from its encounter with Jupiter and Saturn.

Voyager 1 in orbitVoyager 1 LaunchVoyager 1 schumatic

1978


May 20, 1978
Launch of the first of two spacecrafts called Pioneer Venus, which would study the Venusian atmosphere.

Pioneer Venus in OrbitPioneer Venus at KSCPioneer Venus at KSC 2

1981


April 12, 1981
STS-1 - Aboard the space shuttle Columbia, Robert L. Crippen and John W. Young make the first mission in NASA's Space Shuttle program. The Space Shuttle program (officially called Space Transportation System) ran from 1981 to 2011.

STS 1 at Night on PadSTS 1 Challenger CrewSTS 1 Challenger at Lift OffSTS 1 Challenger Approach

STS 1 Launch BBC Coverage (License: Creative Commons)

STS 1 NASA Shuttle Showcase (License: NASA Public Domain)

STS 1 Landing (License: NASA Public Domain)

STS 1 Launch Columbia Alternative View (License: NASA Public Domain)

STS 1 Launch Columbia (April 12, 1981) (License: NASA Public Domain)

1983


April 4, 1983
STS-6 - Challenger carries the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, TDRS-1, into orbit. Donald Peterson and Story Musgrave successfully accomplished the program's first extravehicular activity (EVA), performing various tests in the orbiter's payload bay. Their spacewalk lasted 4 hours and 17 minutes.

STS-6 TouchdownSTS-6 EVASTS-6 EVA 2STS-6 Story Musgrave during EVASTS-6 LaunchSTS-6 Crew
 

June 18, 1983
STS-7 - Sally Ride becomes first American woman in space with launch of shuttle mission STS-7 aboard the space shuttle Challenger.

STS 7 In OrbitSTS 7 CrewSally Ride STS 7 BadgeSTS 7 Sally Ride on boardSally Ride Newsweek
 

August 30, 1983
STS-8 - Guion S. Bluford, Jr., becomes first African American in space with launch of shuttle mission STS-8 aboard the space shuttle Challenger. This is also the first ever night time landing of a Space Shuttle

STS 8 Bluford on boardSTS 8 Portrait of Guion BlufordSTS 8 on PadSTS 8 CrewSTS 8 Portrait of Guion Bluford in Space Suit

1984


August 30, 1984
STS-41D - First flight of Space Shuttle Discovery. Mission included testing of the Solar Array and the deployment of three commercial communications satelites.

STS 41 D Crew in OrbitSTS 41 D Crew on way to Launch PadSTS 41 D Discovery in OrbitSTS 41 D Discovery atop 747STS 41 D Crew

STS 41 D Discovery Mission Review (License: NASA Public Domain)

 

October 5, 1984
STS-41-G - First flight with two women in space, Sally Ride and Kathryn Sullivan. First spacewalk by a US woman (Sullivan). First Canadian in space. The on board IMAX camera filmed fottage for the IMAX movie, The Dream is Alive.

STS 41 G CrewSTS 41 G Sullivan checks antennaSTS 41 G CamerasSTS 41 G DeploymentSTS 41 G Mission Insignia

1985


October 3, 1985
STS-51-J - First flight of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Department of Defense classified mission.

STS 51 J CrewSTS 51 J InteriorSTS 51 J Landing

STS 51 J First Launch Atlantis (License: NASA Public Domain)

1986


January 28, 1986
STS-51-L - First major catastrophe for NASA, when space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff with seven crew members aboard. Total loss of vehicle and crew, including a civilian teacher. It was later determined that the failure was caused by the failure of an O-ring seal on the Solid Rocket Boosters. 73 seconds after lift-off, the vehicle experienced a catastrophic structural failure and the orbiter rapidly broke up. The launch had been approved despite a predicted ambient temperature of 26 °F (−3 °C), well below the qualification limit of major components. It is almost certain the actual disintegration did not kill the entire crew as 3 of the 4 PEAPs (personal egress air packs) that were recovered had been manually activated.

STS 51 L Departing Launch PadSTS 51 L Challenger ExplodesSTS 51 L Challenger Explodes 2STS 51 L Challenger Recovered Debris 2STS 51 L Challenger Recovered DebrisSTS 51 L Challenger Crew

Loss of Challenger 25 Years On (License: NASA Public Domain)

Loss of Challenger (License: NASA Public Domain)

 

February 19, 1986
Mir space station launches.

1988


September 29, 1988
STS-26 - Space Shuttle flights resume when Discovery is launced from Kennedy Space Center. It was declared the "Return to Flight" mission. The primary payload was a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). Eleven scheduled mid-deck scientific and technological experiments were carried out. The orbiter sustained only minor Thermal Protection System tile damage, and the redesigned post-Challenger solid rocket boosters showed no signs of leakage or overheating at any of the joints.

STS 26 Discovery LandingSTS 26 CrewSTS 26 Hawaiian Islands images from orbitSTS 26 Departing Launch PadSTS 26 Payload Deployment

1989


October 18, 1989
STS-34 - Space shuttle Atlantis launches Galileo to study Jupiter and its moons. It took Galileo six years to reach Jupiter, and it finally disintegrated in Jupiter's atmosphere in September of 2003, 14 years after it began its collision course toward the giant planet.

STS 34 Human Exploration ImagesSTS 34 GalileoSTS 34 TouchdownSTS 34 Roll Out

Launch of Atlantis and Gallileo (License: NASA Public Domain)

Crew onboard Atlantis (License: NASA Public Domain)

1990


April 24, 1990
STS-31 - Deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope from Space Shuttle Columbia. Discovery launched from pad 39B while Columbia was on 39A

deployment oh hubble space telescopeLaunch of STS31 Hubble Solar Array Deploymentthe hubble space telescopecrew who deploy hubble space telescopeDeployment of HubbleHubble Solar Array DeploymentCrew monitor Hubble Deployment

STS31 Hubble Space Telescope Deployment 2 (License: NASA Public Domain)

1993


December 19, 1993
STS-61 - This was the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. The mission restored the spaceborne observatory's vision with the installation of a corrective optics package and also installed instrument upgrades. The STS-61 mission was one of the most complex in the Shuttle's history. It lasted almost 11 days, and crew members made five spacewalks, an all-time record.

STS 61 Approaching the telescope for recoverySTS 61 Telescope RecoverySTS 61 LaunchSTS 61 Story Musgrave on EVA repairing HubbleSTS 61 InsigniaSTS 61 Crew

STS 61 Hubble Space Telescope Recovery and Repairs (License: NASA Public Domain)

1994


February 3-11, 1994
STS-60 - Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev becomes the first Russian to fly aboard a U.S. space shuttle.

Sergei Krikalev with U.S. crewSergei KrikalevSergei first russian to fly aboard a US space shuttleSTS60 LaunchSTS60 Crew

1995


March 14, 1995
Astronaut Norman Thagard launched with Cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Gennady Strekalov aboard a Russian Soyuz to spend 115 days on Mir.

Russian TM21 CrewRussian Crew on MIRRussian TM21 Launch
 

June 27, 1995
First docking with Mir Space Station. Space Shuttle Atlantis, mission STS-71.

STS71 Dockied with MIRSTS71 Docking with MIRSTS71 TouchdownSTS71 Launchatlantis meet mir first docking

1996


December 4, 1996
Launch of Mars Pathfinder.

Mars Pathfinder Launchmars pathfinder launch viewed from jetty park flMars PathfinderMars Pathfinder Airbags

1997


July 4, 1997
Pathfinder lands on Mars. The rover Sojourner would go on to explore the Martian surface for more than 80 days.

Pathfinder Lans on Mars 2mars pathfinder and rover sojournerPathfinder Lans on Mars 3Pathfinder Lans on Mars

1998


November 20, 1998
First piece of the International Space Station is launched.

Rissian Proton Rocket
 

December 4, 1998
STS-88 - First International Space Station (ISS) assembly flight.

space shuttle endeavour delivery de utility nodeSTS88 on Launch PadSTS88 CrewSTS88 on LaunchSTS88 ISS Assembly

STS88 First ISS Assembly Flight (License: NASA Public Domain)

1999


July 22-27, 1999
STS-93 - First woman to command a Shuttle mission. Columbia's 26th flight was led by Air Force Col. Eileen Collins. Five seconds after launch an electrical short disabled the primary controller on two of the three main engines and they automatically switched to backup controllers. The problem was later discovered to have been caused by poorly routed wiring which had rubbed on an exposed screw head. Premature engine shutdown resulted in a slightly lower orbit.

first womand commanderSTS93 LandingSTS93 Eileen CollinsSTS93 Eileen Collins Zero G 2STS93 CrewSTS93 Eileen CollinsSTS93 Launch

2000


November 2, 2000
The crew of Expedition One, astronaut Bill Shepherd and cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, dock at the International Space Station. They are the first people to take up residence at the ISS, staying there for several months.

Expedition One CrewExpedition One Commander William Sheppard in OrbitISS in Orbit

2001


August 8, 2001
Launch of Genesis, which would collect samples of atoms from solar wind which is ejected from the outer portion of the sun, and return it to Earth. Genesis would be the first attempt to return samples to Earth since the Apollo moon mission in 1972. Upon return to Earth it crash-landed in Utah on September 8, 2004, after a design flaw prevented the deployment of its parachute. Most of the samples were damaged but some were successfully recovered.

Genesis LaunchGenesis being AssembledGenesisGenesis Collector Array

Nasa Genesis Capsule Spirals Out of Control and Crashes (License: NASA Public Domain)

2003


February 1, 2003
STS-107 - Crew of seven astronauts, including the first Israeli astronaut, is lost after a 16-day mission when the Columbia space shuttle explodes on re-entry. The accident was later attributed to damage sustained to foam insulation and has led NASA to understand how to safely repair similar damage on later missions.

STS 107 ExplosionSTS 107 Laurel Clark in OrbitSTS 107 CrewSTS 107 Wheel in Debris HangerSTS 107 Debris HangerSTS 107 Tire in Debris HangerSTS 107 Crew in OrbitSTS 107 Smoke Cloud

George Bush addresses the Nation (License: Creative Commons)

WFAA Video of the break-up of Columbia (License: Creative Commons)

 

June 10 and July 7, 2003
Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity launch.

Artists Impression of Mars Spirit Rover on the surface of MarsSpirit Launch using a Delta II Rocket

2004


January 2004
Spirit and Opportunity arrive on the Martian surface. They continue to explore the Red Planet today.

Opportunity Rover Incline on surface of MarsOpportunity Rover nears Spirit Point on the surface of MarsArtists Impression of Mars Spirit Rover on the surface of MarsOpportunity Rover Textured surface of MarsOpportunity Rover surface of MarsMars Surface as seen by Lunar RoversSpirit Rover Schumatic
 

September 8, 2004
After capturing particles from the sun, Genesis makes a dramatic crash landing in Utah when its parachute fails to deploy. Despite the landing, scientists still managed to recover and study the samples.

Genisis Crashed in Utah DessertGenisis Crashed Canister being Inspected at NASA

Genesis Tumbling to Earth (License: NASA Public Domain)

2005


July 26, 2005
STS-114 - Space Shuttle Discovery launched successfully into orbit, marking NASA's first return to human spaceflight after the Columbia tragedy. The problem that caused the loss of Columbia – debris separating from the external tank during ascent – unexpectedly recurred during the launch of Discovery. As a result, NASA decided to postpone future shuttle flights pending modifications.

STS 114 CrewSTS 114 Lift OffSTS 114 Underbelly InspectionSTS 114 Steve Robinson EVASTS 114 Mission Completed and back in the HangerSTS 114 in Orbit over Switzerland

STS 114 (License: NASA Public Domain)

2006


January 19, 2006
New Horizons launched from Cape Canaveral. This robotic spacecraft is currently en route to the dwarf planet Pluto. It is expected to be the first spacecraft to fly by and study Pluto and its moons.

New Horizons IR Photo of JupiterNew Horizons Probe Assembly

New Horizons Launch (License: NASA Public Domain)

2008


Various Shuttle missions to the ISS for assembly.

STS 126 Human Exploration abour ISSSTS 124 EVASTS 126 on Pad at NightSTS 126 ISS PhotoSTS 126 MIssion FlyerSTS 123 Working on ISSSTS 122 CrewSTS 126 ISS Crew in Zero GravitySTS 126 in Orbit with Cargo Bay Doors OpenSTS 123 Crew

2009


Various Shuttle missions to the ISS for assembly.

STS 127 Post Mission Presentation (License: NASA Public Domain)

STS 119 Launch (License: NASA Public Domain)

2010


Various Shuttle missions to the ISS for assembly.

STS 132 ISSSTS 132 Cupola RWSSTS 130 Mission PosterSTS 131 Clayton Anderson Mission Specialist on EVA

STS 130 Night Launch (License: NASA Public Domain)

STS 131 Docking (License: NASA Public Domain)

2011


July 8, 2011
STS-135 - The launch of final flight of the Space Shuttle program. Atlantis carried a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) Raffaello and a Lightweight Multi-Purpose Carrier (LMC). Only four astronauts were assigned to this mission, versus the normal six or seven, because there were no other Space Shuttles available for a rescue following the retirement of Discovery and Endeavour.

STS 135 Zero G- NASA Public DomainSTS 135 Image of ISS Solar Array through WindowSTS 135 Final Lift OffSTS 135 on the Pad at DawnSTS 135 Roll OutSTS 135 Crew PhotoSTS 135 ISS
 

July 21, 2011
Landing of STS-135 and the end of the Space Shuttle era. STS-135 delivered supplies and equipment to provision the space station through 2012, following the end of NASA's space shuttle program.

STS 135 LandingSTS 135 Landing Near TouchdownSTS 135 Crew after LandingSTS 135 Landing Convoy VehiclesSTS 135 Landing Parachute Deployed

STS 135 Landing (License: NASA Public Domain)

STS 135 The Final Landing of the Space Shuttle (License: Spacevidcast Creative Commons)

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The temperature of the earth's interior increases by 1 degree every 60 feet down.