From left: Laika, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, American astronaut Alan B. Shepard Jr., President John F. Kennedy, astronaut and San Antonio native Edward H. White II, John H. Glenn Jr., the crew of Apollo 11, and American entrepreneur Elon Musk.Illustration by Gluekit; Laika: Keystone/Getty; Gagarin, Kennedy: AP; White: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty; Musk: Bryan Mitchell/Getty; all others Courtesy of NASA You’ve read your last free article Enter your email address If you fill out the first name, last name, or agree to terms fields, you will NOT be added to the newsletter list. Leave them blank to get signed up. Last Name Subscribe now, or to get 10 days of free access, sign up with your email. Cancel anytime. Sign up for free access Already a subscriber? Login or link your subscription. The State of Texas(Daily)A daily digest of Texas news, plus the latest from Texas Monthly This Week in Texas(Weekly)The best stories from Texas Monthly Editor’s Desk(Monthly)A message from the editors at Texas Monthly Sign UpI agree to the terms and conditions. Subscribe Never Miss a StorySign up for Texas Monthly’s State of Texas newsletter to get stories like this delivered to your inbox daily. 4th century BCThe Greek mathematician Archytas creates a wooden pigeon that is propelled by escaping steam, an early example of rocket technology. 2nd century ADThe Syrian writer Lucian of Samosata publishes A True Story, a satirical novel that includes the first known fictional references to outer space travel.1232The Chinese become the first people to use gunpowder-fueled rockets for martial purposes.1897The Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky correctly theorizes that rockets can function in a vacuum, unlike other forms of propulsion. Dr. Robert H. Goddard and his liquid-fueled rocket in the frame from which it was fired on March 16, 1926, at Auburn, Mass.Courtesy of NASAMarch 16, 1926The American engineer Robert Goddard launches the first liquid-fueled rocket. June 20, 1944During World War II, Germany’s V-2 becomes the first craft to achieve spaceflight (usually defined as 62 miles above sea level). At the end of the war, many of the German rocket scientists who worked on it were recruited for the American and Russian rocket programs. February 20, 1947Fruit flies aboard a U.S. V-2 rocket become the first animals to travel in outer space. October 4, 1957The U.S.S.R. launches Sputnik I, the world’s first artificial satellite, starting the space race between the Soviet Union and the U.S. November 3, 1957Laika, a mixed-breed dog, becomes the first animal to orbit the earth. Hours later she also becomes the first animal to die in orbit. America’s first satellite, Explorer I.Courtesy of NASAJanuary 31, 1958The U.S. launches its first artificial satellite, Explorer I. October 11, 1958NASA’s first spacecraft, Pioneer I, is launched from Cape Canaveral. Though it reaches outer space, a programming error prevents it from reaching the moon. Between December 1958 and April 1961, the Juno II launched space probes Pioneer III and IV, as well as Explorer satellites VII, VIII, and XI.Courtesy of NASA1959The Soviet Union and the U.S. independently launch unmanned probes to the moon. The Soviets conduct the first flyby of the moon in January; the U.S. repeats the feat in March. In September a Soviet spacecraft intentionally crash-lands on the moon, becoming the first man-made object to touch the surface of another celestial body. April 12, 1961Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet cosmonaut, becomes the first human to reach space and complete one orbit of the earth. May 5, 1961Alan B. Shepard Jr. becomes the first American to reach space. May 25, 1961President John F. Kennedy announces his determination to put a man on the moon. February 20, 1962John H. Glenn Jr. becomes the first American to orbit the earth. April 26, 1962The Ranger 4 crash-lands on the moon, becoming the first U.S. craft to reach another celestial body.Russian astronaut Alexei Leonov becomes the first man to walk in space on March 18, 1965.Central Press/GettyMarch 18, 1965Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov becomes the first person to conduct a space walk.June 3, 1965San Antonio native Edward H. White II becomes the first U.S. astronaut to conduct a space walk.July 15, 1965The American spacecraft Mariner 4 successfully conducts the first flyby of Mars. February 3, 1966The Soviet Union’s Luna 9 becomes the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the moon.A model of the Surveyor 1 spacecraft.Courtesy of NASAJune 2, 1966Surveyor 1 becomes the first American spacecraft to soft-land on the moon. January 27, 1967A flash fire breaks out during an Apollo 1 simulation at Kennedy Space Center, killing the three astronauts aboard. April 24, 1967The Soviet Union’s Vladimir Komarov becomes the first astronaut to die in-flight when his ship, Soyuz 1, crashes on its descent.December 24, 1968Apollo 8 becomes the first manned spacecraft to successfully orbit the moon. Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot of the first lunar landing mission on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969.Courtesy of NASAJuly 20, 1969Apollo 11 becomes the first manned spacecraft to land on the moon. April 17, 1970The crew of Apollo 13 safely returns to Earth after the rupture of an oxygen tank damages several of the craft’s power, electrical, and life-support systems. June 30, 1971The three astronauts on the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 11 become the first—and so far the only—people to die in space when their capsule depressurized prior to reentering Earth’s atmosphere.November 13, 1971The American spacecraft Mariner 9 becomes the first craft to orbit another planet, Mars. November 27, 1971The Soviet Union’s Mars 2 vehicle, which was expected to make a soft landing on Mars, crashes onto the planet’s surface, becoming the first spacecraft to touch another planet.December 2, 1971The Soviet Union’s Mars 3 becomes the first spacecraft to attain a soft landing on Mars.December 7, 1972Apollo 17 takes flight as the last of the six successful Apollo missions to the moon. July 20, 1976The Viking 1 lander touches down on the surface of Mars, the first U.S. craft to do so.The space shuttle Columbia launches on April 12, 1981, manned with two astronauts, John Young and Robert Crippen.Courtesy of NASAApril 12, 1981The space shuttle Columbia launches as the first operational flight of the U.S. shuttle program.January 28, 1986The Challenger shuttle explodes 73 seconds after takeoff, killing all seven crew members. 1998NASA begins working with Russia on the International Space Station.2000Amazon founder Jeff Bezos creates the aerospace company Blue Origin. In 2003 Blue Origin begins buying land in West Texas for an engine-test and suborbital-test-flight facility.2002Entrepreneur Elon Musk founds SpaceX with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. February 1, 2003The space shuttle Columbia breaks up over Texas. All seven crew members die.August 4, 2014SpaceX publicly announces it has chosen Boca Chica Village, Texas, near Brownsville, as the location for its new launch site. Blue Origin founder—and Amazon.com founder and CEO—Jeff Bezos in Seattle, Washington, on June 18, 2014.David Ryder/GettyMay 9, 2019Bezos announces that Blue Origin is working on a manned moon landing vehicle called “Blue Moon,” which he expects to be in operation by 2024. It is the first step in Bezos’s plan to help humanity colonize the solar system. Hope you enjoyed your free ride. To get back in the saddle, subscribe! First Name Why am I seeing this?