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Timeline: the Space Race

1957-1965 | 1966-1975  


January: Sergei Korolov, the driving force behind the Soviet space program, dies. His successors will not wield the same political influence as he did, contributing to emerging problems in the Soviet program.

A profile view of the Agena as seen from the Gemini 8 March 16: Americans Neil Armstrong and David Scott couple Gemini 8 to an unmanned Agena vehicle, docking two spacecraft together for the first time. Shortly after this feat, Gemini 8 experiences a stuck thruster, causing the craft to tumble wildly, and the rest of the mission is aborted.

Following reports of Gemini 8's problems, the Soviet Union reveals that their Voskhod 2 mission the previous March had landed far off course and the astronauts were stranded in a snowy forest for a day before they could be recovered.

March 31: Luna 10 launches from the Soviet Union. The unmanned probe will achieve lunar orbit -- the first object to do so -- and send information about the moon back to earth.

May 30: The unmanned American Surveyor 1 craft lands on the moon and transmits photographs and other data back to Earth.

Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin performs extravehicular activity (EVA) November 11-15: On the last Gemini flight, Jim Lovell and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin dock with an Agena and Aldrin makes three space walks, performing a number of physical tasks without undue effort.


Apollo 1 crewmembers that perished in a fire January 27: A fire during routine testing of the Apollo spacecraft kills three astronauts -- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chafee -- in their capsule.

The Russians send their condolences to the families of the astronauts.

President Lyndon B. Johnson On the same date, President Lyndon Johnson and counterparts in London and Moscow sign the "Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space." Signatories agree, among other points, that outer space will remain demilitarized, no territorial claims on earth orbit or any planetary bodies will be made and that astronauts or cosmonauts who find themselves landing off course will be returned to their home countries.

April 23: Vladimir Komarov commands Soyuz 1. On its descent, the parachute becomes tangled and Soyuz 1 slams into the ground at high speed, killing Komarov. It is the first death to occur during a space flight.


September 14: The Soviet Union sends Zond 5 around the moon and back to Earth in an unmanned test of their circumlunar spacecraft.

Apollo 7 Astronaut Wally Schirra October 11-12: After extensive redesign work, Apollo 7, commanded by Wally Schirra (the only astronaut to command Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions) enters earth orbit in the first test of the spacecraft.

October: The Soviets launch the unmanned Soyuz 2. A day later Soyuz 3, piloted by Georgii Beregovoi, launches and completes a rendezvous with Soyuz 2 in orbit.

November 10: Zond 6 follows its predecessor's trajectory around the moon and returns with a "skip" reentry, bouncing once off the Earth's atmosphere to reduce the G-forces acting upon the contents. Two more Zond flights will follow in 1969 but they will all be unmanned.

Apollo 8 crew members James Lovell, William Anders, and Frank Borman December 21-27: Apollo 8 completes the first manned orbit of the moon. Frank Borman commands the mission, Jim Lovell acts as navigator and William Anders is photographer and geological observer.


March 3-13: The American Apollo 9 mission tests the Lunar Module for the first time, in Earth orbit.

May 18-26: Apollo 10 utilizes both the command-service module and the Lunar Module around the moon. Americans Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan descend to within 50,000 feet of the surface of the moon.

July 16: Apollo 11 begins its mission to the moon.

Buzz Aldrin on the moon July 20: Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become the first men to walk on the moon. They then rendezvous with Michael Collins in the command module for the return to Earth.

July 24: Apollo 11 returns to earth safely.

November 14-24: Apollo 12 lands on the moon. Pete Conrad and Alan Bean collect lunar samples, as well as parts of the unmanned Surveyor 3, another American spacecraft that had landed on the moon in April 1967.


Mission Control celebrates the return of Apollo 13 April 11-17: En route to the moon, oxygen tanks explode on Apollo 13's command-service module. Through quick thinking from the crew and mission control, astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise manage to survive in the Lunar Module until just before reentry to the earth's atmosphere when they return to the command-service module and land safely.


January 31-February 9: Alan Shepard, the first American in space, commands Apollo 14 for the third lunar landing, on February 5.

July 26-August 7: Apollo 15 lands on the moon with a four-wheel drive lunar rover.


Astronaut Charles Duke Jr. with the Lunar Rover Vehicle (LRV) April 16-27: Apollo 16 lands on the moon and travels almost 17 miles with the lunar rover.

December 7-19: Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt become the last men to walk on the moon in the twentieth century. They remain on the moon for three days (75 hours). Schmitt is the first scientist-astronaut to land on the moon.


Apollo Commander Thomas Strafford and Soyuz Commander Alexei Leonov shake hands in space July 15-24: The last Apollo mission carries Donald K. "Deke" Slayton into space with Tom Stafford and Vance Brand (Slayton, one of the original Mercury astronauts, had not previously flown in space due to a heart fibrillation). In orbit, they dock with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. The mission proves the compatibility of the two space programs and paves the way for future collaborations and rescue missions.

1957-1965 | 1966-1975  

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