The mission of the first NASA project, Mercury, was to learn whether humans could survive in space. Subsequent mission projects included Gemini during the 1960s, then Apollo, which ultimately landed the first astronauts on the moon in 1969. The Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz Test Projects were initiated in the 1970s. The Space Shuttle Program and the International Space Station developed from these initiatives during the 1980s and 1990s. NASA has launched several unmanned probes, such as Pioneer, Voyager, and the Hubble Space Telescope, in addition to its manned missions, and space science programs have been carried out to Earth’s moon and all planets in our solar system except Pluto. Together, these projects have yielded NASA many successes with few tragic failures (Table 1-1) (

TABLE 1-1 Draft Timeline of NASA History


Policy Events

Mission Events


NASA began operation

Pioneer 1: NASA’s first launch



Mercury 1: Mercury-Redstone Capsule-launch vehicle combination. Unoccupied test flight


President Kennedy announced that he was committed to landing a man on the moon

Mercury Astronaut program: human space flight initiatives to see if humans could survive in space, 1961-1963

Mercury 2: Chimpanzee Ham was sent into suborbital space for 16.5 minutes

Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space: Mercury spacecraft Freedom 7



John Glenn becomes first American to orbit the Earth: Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7


Project Gemini is implemented: Flights, 1965-1966

Gus Grissom and John Young: first operational mission of Project Gemini with Gemini 3

Ed White became the first American to complete a spacewalk: Gemini 4


Project Apollo is implemented: Flights, 1967-1972

Apollo-Saturn (AS) 204 (Apollo 1): First death directly attributable to U.S. Space program. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died as a result of a fire on the launch pad

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