Group B The History Of Space Travel

In 1942 the German V2 was the first rocket to reach 100km from the Earth’s surface (the boundary of space).

The rocket was designed by Wernher Von Braun, who later worked with NASA as the creator of the rockets that went to the moon

In 1947, the first animals were launched into space. Fruit flies were used to study the effects of space travel on animals, and were chosen because they are more similar to humans than you might imagine!

The flies travelled with a supply of corn to eat on the flight.

Albert II, was the first monkey in space. He was a Rhesus monkey, a type of monkey that originally comes from Asia.

Albert went into space on 14th June, 1949 in a specially adapted American V2 rocket, that flew to a height of 83 miles from earth

On 4th October 1957, Russia launched the first satellite into space; Sputnik 1, and the space age had properly begun!

Sputnik was the first satellite in orbit around the earth. Today there are over 500 working satellites in space. Sputnik means "Satellite" in Russian

In November 1957, the Russian space dog Laika became the first animal to orbit the earth.

Laika travelled in a spacecraft known as Sputnik 2. Laika means "Barker" in Russian, and her mission helped scientists understand whether people could survive in space.

By 1959 Both American and Russian scientists were in a race to get a spacecraft to the Moon; the Russians made it first.

Space-probe Luna 2 crash-landed into the moon at a speed that would kill an astronaut if one had been travelling in it! It was ten more years until a human visited the moon's surface.

On 12th April 1961, Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space. Gagarin's spacecraft, Vostok 1, completed one orbit of the earth, and landed about two hours after launch.

Gagarin had to bail out and land using his parachute, because the Vostok 1 was designed to crash land!

The first woman in space was Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova.

After her 1963 mission, Valentina became an important member of the Russian Government, and has been awarded many honours and prizes for her achievements. A crater on the far side of the Moon is named after her!

In 1963 US President John F. Kennedy promised the world that the US would land men on the moon before 1970. Before risking people's lives, NASA sent a robot spaceship, to make sure they could land safely.

It was called Surveyor 1, and it made the second soft landing on the Moon on 30th May 1966, a few months after Russian probe Luna 9 landed successfully.

Once it had landed on the moon, the robotic spaceship Surveyor 1 started taking photographs of the moon's surface, which it transmitted back to excited scientists in America and around the world.

The scientists used this vital information about the terrain to work out how they might land people on the moon safely.

On 20th July 1969, Neil Armstrong, and then Buzz Aldrin took "one small step" and became the first men on the moon. The first words said on the moon were "the Eagle has landed". Their spaceship, Apollo 11 worked perfectly, flying them 250,000 miles to the moon, and bringing them all the way back safely to earth. Buzz was a childhood nickname - his real name was Edwin!

Two days into its journey to the moon, on 13th April 1970, Apollo 13 suffered an explosion caused by a wiring fault. Using only whatever was on board, NASA scientists and the astronauts on board improvised repairs to bring the crippled spaceship home.

The mission was a successful failure: although the crew never walked on the moon at least they made it home alive!

From 1971 American astronauts on the fourth, fifth and sixth Apollo missions enjoyed use of a moon car to explore the moon. Known as the Lunar Rover, it was electric powered, and had a top speed of 8mph.

It was designed and developed in only 17 months, by Boeing, the aeroplane company famous for making the Jumbo Jet.

In 1973, Russian space probe Mars 2 explored Mars, the fourth planet of the solar system.

The probe was made of two parts. One part stayed in orbit for a year, sending pictures of Mars back to earth. The other was to land and explore the surface of Mars, but it was destroyed when its parachute failed to open.

Until 12th April 1981 all spacecraft were designed to be used only once. The Space Shuttle, was designed to be reused for up to 100 visits to space, in an attempt to make space travel less expensive.

With five hugely powerful rocket motors, it can fly at more than 17,000 miles per hour. Six have been built


On January 28th 1986, tragedy struck. Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch, because of a fuel system failure. All seven astronauts on board were killed, and all shuttles were grounded for nearly three years.

This shocking accident reminded the world of the dangers of space travel, and the incredible bravery of all astronauts.

The MIR space station was built in sections, each piece launched by a rocket and then joined together in orbit. Construction started in 1986, with the last piece being fitted ten years later!

MIR was the first consistently inhabited long-term space station. MIR was destroyed in 2001 when it burned up as it crashed back to earth.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License