With the launch of the world's first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, the modern space age began, and countless space firsts would follow. By the end of the next decade, the first manned space flight and the first people in space were years in the past, and both Russia and the United States had developed space programs, amid a tense space race to be the first to land a man on the moon. The United States won that one with "one giant leap for mankind" in July 1969.
Since that historic Moon landing, there have been many more space firsts as space travel and space exploration have pushed their own boundaries: the first reusable spacecraft (the space shuttle), the first landing on Mars, the first space telescope, the first space station and, in July 2015, the first flyby of dwarf planet Pluto.The space race may be over, and the first space flight is just a part of space travel history, but that doesn't mean mankind has stopped "boldly going where no man has gone before." Peruse some of history's most notable space firsts below and let your imagination wander... perhaps to "a galaxy far, far away." What do you think the next space first will be? Who will be the next big names in the history of space travel?
1957 - First Satellite to Orbit Earth
On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world's first artificial satellite. This marked the beginning of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.
1957 - First Animal in Space
The first animal from Earth to be launched into space was a female dog from Russia named Laika, who took flight in 1957. She lived for seven days inside Sputnik II, proving that living creatures could survive in space. Unfortnately, there was no way to bring Laika back to Earth, so she also became the first animal to die in space.
1961 - First Human in Space
Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space on April 12, 1961. There were some problems upon reentry, and Gagarin ejected from the Vostok 1 and parachuted to Earth.
1961 - First American in Space
Alan Shepard made a 15 minute, 28 second flight on board the Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961. Three weeks later, President John F. Kennedy vowed to send men to the moon and back by the end of the '60s.