Historical Space Launches
The USSR launched the first human in space, Yuri Gagarin, into a single orbit in Vostok 1 on a Vostok 3KA rocket, on 12 April 1961. The US launched its first astronaut, Alan Shepard, on a suborbital flight aboard Freedom 7 on a Mercury-Redstone rocket, on 5 May 1961.
First unmanned satellite
The race began in 1957, when both the US and the USSR made statements announcing they planned to launch artificial satellites during the 18 month long International Geophysical Year of July 1957 to December 1958.
- July 29, 1957, the US announced a planned launch of the Vanguard by the spring of 1958
- July 31, the USSR announced it would launch a satellite in the fall of 1957
First man in space
On April 12, 1961, the USSR opened the era of manned spaceflight, with the flight of the first cosmonaut (Russian name for space travelers), Yuri Gagarin. Gagarin's flight, part of the Soviet Vostok space exploration program
Took 108 minutes and consisted of a single orbit of the Earth
First woman in space
The first woman in space was former civilian parachutist Valentina Tereshkova, who entered orbit on June 16, 1963, aboard the Soviet mission Vostok 6. The chief Soviet spacecraft designer, Sergey Korolyov, conceived of the idea to recruit a female cosmonaut corps and launch two women concurrently on Vostok 5/6. However, his plan was changed to launch a male first in Vostok 5, followed shortly afterward by Tereshkova. Khrushchev personally spoke to Tereshkova by radio during her flight
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