Space History

Humans in space: past, present, future


Humans have been visiting space since Yuri Gargarin became the first man in space on April 12, 1961.

John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962, and Ed White became the first American to conduct a space walk.

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In 1984, President Ronald Reagan directed NASA to build an international, orbiting station in space.

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The 1st segment of the International Space Station launched in November 1998 on a Russian rocket called Zarya.

In December 1998, the US shuttle Endeavor launched a crewed mission dedicated to assembling the ISS.

A Russian Soyuz rocket carried humans to the ISS on Nov 2, 2000 for the first long duration stay.

For the next two years, shuttles Endeavor, Atlantis, and Discovery carried humans to and from the ISS.

Then, in 2003, disaster struck.


As the shuttle Columbia re-entered the atmosphere after a 16-day mission, previous unknown damage to the shuttle’s wing led to a loss of control, and the shuttle disintegrated, killing all 7 crewmembers.

NASA’s space shuttle fleet was grounded for the next two years, and major construction on the ISS was also halted until 2006.

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Between 2003-2006, crews launched to the ISS on Russian Soyuz rockets.


The shuttle program resumed on Independence Day 2006, when space shuttle Discovery launched a crew to the ISS.

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For the following 5 years, shuttles carried crew to and from the ISS until August 31, 2011, when the Atlantis shuttle carried its final crew members to the ISS.

That last flight marked the 135th shuttle mission.

Since 2011, the US has relied on Russia to carry crew to the ISS and home again.
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That changed on May 30, when SpaceX launched two astronauts to the ISS in its Dragon Crew Capsule, atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

Bob Benhken (left) and Doug Hurley (right) are veteran astronauts, with 4 shuttle flights and hundreds of in-space hours between them.


19 hours after the Demo-2 mission launched, the Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station.

The SpaceX launch was "an important step on our path to expand human exploration to the Moon and Mars," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, in a statement.

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