Chronology of Human Space Exploration Part 1: 1900 - 1950

Compiled by
Gregory P. Kennedy



Manned Space Flight Chronology 1900 to 1950

1903 -- Konstantine Tsiolkovsky publishes theories about rocketry and space travel; proposes design for manned spacecraft. (RUS)

1919 - Robert H. Goddard publishes A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. (USA)

1923 -- Hermann Oberth publishes Die Rakete zu den Planetenraumen (The Rocket into Planetary Space). (GER)

March 16, 1926 -- Robert H. Goddard launches world's first liquid fuel rocket. (USA)

May 4, 1927 -- U. S. Army Captain Hawthorne C. Gray attempted to set altitude record; reached 42,470 feet in open basket balloon; had to bail out during descent so record was not official. (USA)

November 4, 1927 - U. S. Army Captain Hawthorne C. Gray attempted again to set an altitude record; reached 42,470 feet, but did not survive the flight. (USA)

April 10, 1929 -- Friedrich Sander claimed to have launched first liquid-fuel rocket in Europe; flight carried out in secret. (GER)

February 21, 1931 -- Johannes Winkler launches liquid oxygen/liquid methane rocket. Believed, at that time, by German Society for Space Travel to be world's first liquid fuel rocket. (GER)

May 27, 1931 -- Auguste Piccard and Paul Kipfer make first balloon flight into the stratosphere using a sealed capsule from Augsburg, Germany; altitude 51,777 feet. (BEL)

August 18, 1932 - Auguste Piccard and Max Cosyns set record altitude of 53,152 feet in balloon. (BEL)

October 1, 1932 -- Wernher von Braun begins working for German Army Ordnance Department rocket project at Kummersdorf. (GER)

August 17, 1933 - Launch of GIRD-09; hybrid rocket that burned liquid oxygen and "solidified benzene"; first rocket using a liquid propellant in the Soviet Union. (USSR)

September 30, 1933 -- Russian balloon "USSR" reached 60,695 feet, but ascent never became an official record; crewed by Georgi Prokivief, Ernest Birnbaum, and Konstantine Godrenow. (USSR)

November 20 - 21, 1933 - Lt. Commander Thomas G. W. Settle (USN) and Maj. Chester L. Fordney (USMC) established official world altitude record of 61,237 feet over Akron, Ohio in balloon "A Century of Progress". (USA)

November 25, 1933 -- Launch of GIRD-X, first all-liquid propellant rocket flown in Soviet Union. (USSR)

November 29, 1933 -- American balloonist and daredevil Mark Ridge tested pressure suit built by Sir R. H. Davis and J. B. S. Haldane in a low-pressure chamber; air pressure reduced to 17 mm Mercury, equivalent to pressure at 84,000 feet. (USA)

January 30, 1934 -- Russian balloon "Osaviakhim" reached 73,000 feet, but crew died when gondola fell free; crewed by Paul F. Fedoseyenko, Andrei B. Wasienko (or, Vasenko), and Ilya Usyskin. (USSR)

July 28, 1934 -- "Explorer I" balloon launched from Stratobowl near Rapid City, South Dakota; balloon failed at 60,613 feet; pilots Major William E. Kepner, Captain Orvil A. Anderson, and Captain Albert W. Stevens bailed out during descent. (USA)

August 18, 1934 -- Max Cosyns and Nérée van der Elst piloted a balloon to an altitude of 52,952 feet following a take off from Hour-Havenne, Belgium; flight took them over Germany and Austria before they landed near Senaulje, Yugoslavia. (BEL)

August 27, 1934 -- Wiley Post conducted first test of a U. S. designed pressure suit in an altitude chamber. (USA)

September 5, 1934 -- Wiley Post reached 40,000 feet over Chicago in airplane "Winnie Mae"; first flight with a pressure suit. (USA)

October 23, 1934 - Jeanette and Jean Piccard flew "A Century of Progress" balloon to 57,979 feet after launch from Dearborn, Michigan; Jeanette Piccard set an unofficial altitude record for women and became the first woman to reach the stratosphere. (USA)

July 26, 1935 -- Russian balloon "USSR" reached 52,000 feet; crewed by Warigo, Christofil, and Prilucki. (USSR)

November 11, 1935 - Army Captains Orvil A. Anderson and Albert W. Stevens set new official altitude record of 72,395 feet aboard balloon "Explorer II" in ascent from Stratobowl. (USA)

October 14, 1938 - Polish Captain Zbigniew Burzynski and Dr. Konstanty Jodko-Narkiewicz attempt stratospheric flight in Star of Poland. Balloon caught fire when it was less than 100 feet above the ground. (POL)

October 3, 1942 -- First successful flight of German A-4 (V-2) rocket; first man-made object to leave the atmosphere. (GER)

May 8, 1945 -- World War II ended in Europe; more than 100 scientists and engineers who worked on German rocket programs under the leadership of Wernher von Braun were recruited by the U. S. War Department and brought to America to work on U. S. programs. (USA)

March 22, 1946 -- First American-designed rocket to reach space, WAC Corporal; climbed to 50 miles after launch from White Sands Proving Ground. (USA)

April 16, 1946 -- First flight of an American assembled V-2 at White Sands Proving Ground. (USA)

July 9, 1946 - White Sands V-2 #7 carried packet of special corn seeds; payload not recovered. (USA)

July 19, 1946 - White Sands V-2 #8 carried packet of special corn seeds; rocket exploded 28.5 seconds after lift-off. (USA)

July 30, 1946 - White Sands V-2 #9 carried packet of ordinary corn seeds; payload recovered. (USA)

October 10, 1946 - White Sands V-2#12 carried packet of rye seeds; payload recovered. (USA)

December 17, 1946 - White Sands V-2 #17 carried five Lucite cylinders containing fungus spores; experiment sponsored by the National Institutes of Health; not recovered. (USA)

February 20, 1947 -- Blossom I (V-2 #20) carried several vials of fruit flies, rye seeds and cotton seeds to an altitude of 60 miles; payload recovered intact. (USA)

March 7, 1947 - White Sands V-2 #21 carried rye seeds, cotton seeds, and fruit flies to an altitude of 100 miles. (USA)

June 4, 1947 -- First balloon launch from Alamogordo Army Air Field (later renamed Holloman Air Force Base); cluster of rubber balloons launched by New York University team under contract to Air Materiel Command; part of Project Mogul. (USA)

July 3, 1947 -- First polyethylene balloon launch at Alamogordo Army Air Field (Holloman Air Force Base) by New York University crew. (USA)

July 10, 1947 - White Sands V-2 #29 carried rye seeds, corn seeds, and fruit flies to altitude of 10 miles. Rocket had steering problems from lift off. (USA)

September 25, 1947 -- Otto Winzen launched first polyethylene balloon to reach 100,000 feet. (USA)

October 14, 1947 - First supersonic flight by Air Force Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager in Bell X-1 "Glamorous Glennis." (USA)

October 18, 1947 - First launch of a Soviet captured V-2 rocket from Kapustin Yar. (USSR)

November 18, 1947 - Balloon launched from Stagg Field, University of Chicago, carrying seeds. Climbed to over 100,000 feet; recovered from Lake Erie on November 21, thoroughly soaked; planted immediately. (USA)

March 9, 1948 - Balloon launched from Stagg Field, University of Chicago, carrying seeds. Climbed to 65,000 feet; recovered and planted on March 12, 1948. (USA)

June 11, 1948 - Blossom III (V-2 #37) carried Albert I to altitude of 39 miles. First monkey flight aboard V-2; monkey apparently died before launch. (USA)

July 13, 1948 - Launch of first MX-774 test rocket from White Sands Proving Grounds; predecessor to Atlas ICBM; rocket only reached altitude of 6,200 feet due to an engine failulre. (USA)

September 17, 1948 -- First launch of Soviet R-1 (copy of German V-2) from Kapustin Yar. (USSR)

September 27, 1948 - Launch of second MX-774 test rocket from White Sands Proving Grounds; predecessor to Atlas ICBM; rocket reached altitude of 24 miles due to an early engine shutdown. (USA)

October 13, 1948 - Balloon launched from Stagg Field, University of Chicago, carrying Scarlet Globe radish seeds and grains of Radium Brand spring rye. Climbed to 65,000 feet; recovered and planted on October 16, 1948. (USA)

November 18, 1948 - White Sands V-2 #44 carried cotton seeds to an altitude of 90 miles; payload recovered. (USA)

December 2, 1948 - Launch of third MX-774 test rocket from White Sands Proving Grounds; predecessor to Atlas ICBM; rocket reached altitude of 30 miles due to an early engine shutdown. (USA)

April 21, 1949 -- First launch of Soviet R-1A geophysical rocket from Kapustin Yar. (USSR)

June 14, 1949 -- Albert II flight aboard Blossom 4B (V-2 #47). Second monkey launched aboard a V-2; instrument recordings indicated monkey was alive until impact; parachute failed. (USA)

August 8, 1949 - Air Force Major Frank K. "Pete" Everest piloted Bell X-1 to 71,902 feet; highest flight by original X-1 series of aircraft. (USA)

September 16, 1949 - Blossom 4C (V-2 #32) carried Albert III monkey. V-2 exploded at an altitude of 35,000 feet. (USA)

December 8, 1949 - White Sands V-2 # 31carried Albert IV monkey to altitude of 79 miles. Instrument recordings indicated monkey was alive until impact following parachute failure. (USA)

March 3, 1950 -- Space medicine conference held in Chicago; speakers included Wernher von Braun, Hubertus Strughold, Heinz Haber, and Konrad Buettner. (USA)

July 24, 1950 -- Launch of Bumper 8; first rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. (USA)

August 31, 1950 - White Sands V-2 #51 carried mouse to altitude of 85 miles. Camera recorded animal's response to weightlessness; mouse died on impact but camera survived landing. (USA)

September 8, 1950 -- First biological balloon flight from Holloman Air Force Base carried "14 or 16" white mice on a 7-hour flight which reached 47,000 feet; capsule's pressure relief valve leaked and the mice died. (USA)

September 28, 1950 -- First live recovery of a biological balloon flight from Holloman Air Force Base; capsule carrying 8 white mice recovered after a 3-hour, 40-minute flight to 97,000 feet. (USA)

NOTE: This chronology contains manned space missions; unmanned test flights of manned spacecraft; significant launch vehicle tests; unmanned lunar probes; select space biology flights; piloted stratospheric balloon flights; flights above 50 miles (264,000 feet) by the X-15 rocket plane; and other significant events in the development of manned space programs.

Biological satellites are listed only when they directly supported a manned space project. In the case of missions where crewmembers were launched in one spacecraft and returned in another, the crew names are with the launch spacecraft and explanations of their return to Earth are in the flight description.

A three- or four-letter country designation is given at the end of each entry. The country designations used are as follows:
BEL Belgium
CIS Post 1990 Russia (Commonwealth of Independent States)
FRA France
GER Germany
POL Poland
PRC People's Republic of China
RUS Pre-1917 Russia
USA United States
USSR Soviet Union

This chronology lists events through the second flight of Space Ship One on October 4, 2004.

Note: This Chronology is © Gregory Kennedy 2007, © Optimadata, Inc. 2007 All rights reserved.
This Chronology may not be copied or used in whole or part on any other website or publication.