A Timeline Of The Space Race

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Sixty years ago this week, the USSR launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first manmade satellite, and set off an international competition for spaceflight supremacy. Here are the most important moments in the space race.

September 23, 1957

After a night of drinking, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev challenges President Eisenhower to a gentleman’s game of space travel in which the victor would receive global supremacy


November 3, 1957

The USSR launches Sputnik 2, beating America in the race to kill a dog in space

January 29, 1958

NASA narrowly decides to name its first satellite Explorer instead of Better Dead Than Red


October 11, 1958

The United States faces a major setback when, after a mathematical error, Pioneer 1 is accidentally launched 70,700 miles into the Earth’s core


April 12, 1961

Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space after being the last Russian scientist to yell not it


September 12, 1962

President John F. Kennedy puts NASA scientists in an awkward position when he suggests, in a speech, that it’s somehow possible to travel to the moon


December 8, 1962

NASA achieves several major breakthroughs after scientists start using basketballs as stand-ins for Earth instead of a slightly deflated football


July 20, 1969

Nervous firemen adjust crash pad as Neil Armstrong performs death-defying moon walk 238,900 miles above Earth


August 15, 1969

Buzz Aldrin insists on showing everyone pictures from his incredible trip to the moon


September 2, 1995

The United States definitively clinches the win as Elon Musk lands successfully in California