The exploration of space in 10 key dates | 4/12/1961 | Staff
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From the Soviet Union's pioneering satellite to the first man on the Moon 50 years ago, here are 10 key dates in space exploration.

On October 4, 1957, Moscow launches the first artificial space satellite, Sputnik 1, ushering in the Cold War tussle for the cosmos.

Beach - Aluminium - Minutes - Earth - Message

The beach ball-sized aluminium sphere takes 98 minutes to orbit the Earth and sends back the first message from space, simple "beep-beep-beep" radio signals.

On November 3, Sputnik 2 carries the first living being to fully orbit the Earth, a small street dog called Laika. She dies after a few hours.

April - Cosmonaut - Yuri - Gagarin - Man

On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first man in space, completing a single, 108-minute orbit.

Twenty-three days later, Alan Shepard is the first American in space when he makes a 15-minute trip on May 5.

Cold - War - Rivals - Space - Country

The Cold War rivals are only joined in space by a third country in 2003 when China sends up Yang Liwei onboard Earth orbiter Shenzou V.

On July 21, 1969, US astronaut Neil Armstrong is the first man to step onto the Moon, his teammate Edwin Aldrin joining him around 20 minutes later.

Astronauts—all - American—walked - Moon - Part - NASA

Between 1969 and 1972, 12 astronauts—all American—walked on the Moon as part of NASA's Apollo program.

On April 19, 1971, the Soviet Union launches the first orbital space station, Salyut 1.

Construction - International - Space - Station - ISS

Construction of the still-operating International Space Station (ISS) starts in 1998. The biggest man-made structure in space, it orbits Earth 16 times a day.

The ISS, in which 16 countries participate, took over from the Russian space station Mir, which was brought back to Earth in 2001 after 15 years in orbit.

July - US - Mars - Images - Red

On July 20, 1976, US spacecraft Viking 1 becomes the first to successfully land on Mars and send back images of the Red Planet.

The robot Opportunity explored Mars...
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