Weird History
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Famous Firsts in Space Travel and Exploration

Updated October 8, 2019 47.7k views25 items

With the launch of the world's first satellite, Sputnik, in 1957, the modern space age began, and countless space firsts followed. By the end of the next decade, the first manned space flight and the first people in space were already old news, and Russia and the United States had both developed space programs, launching 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 the historic Moon landing, there have been many more interstellar "firsts," as space travel and exploration have continued to push boundaries. Among the landmarks are the first reusable spacecraft, the first Mars landing, 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 another moment in history, but that doesn't mean mankind has stopped searching the skies. Peruse some of history's most notable space firsts below and let your imagination wander... perhaps to "a galaxy far, far away."

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  • 1961 - First Person to Spend Over a Day in Space

    Gherman Titov was the first person to hang out in space for longer than a day. Part of Vostok 2 in 1961, he was also the first person to sleep in space.
  • 1962 - First American to Orbit the Earth

    John Glenn circled the Earth three times in 4 hours and 56 minutes on February 20, 1962.
  • 1963 - First Woman in Space

    The Soviets launched Valentina Tereshkova into space on June 16, 1963, on board Vostok 6. She spent three days alone in space.
  • 1965 - First Space Walk

    Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov took the first space walk on March 18, 1965. He was tethered to the Voskhod 2 and was outside the craft for 10 minutes.