Chronology of Human Space Exploration Part 3: 1956 - 1960



Compiled by
Gregory P. Kennedy


Manned Space Flight Chronology 1956 to 1960

February 9, 1956 - Unmanned Manhigh test flight; thermal insulation test with mockup capsule; reached 85,000 feet. (USA)

February 11, 1956 - Aeromedical Field Laboratory balloon flight #72B. Carried animal capsule with Neurospora, fruit flies, 70 mice, and 5 guinea pigs. Balloon reached 115,000 feet. Successfully recovered. (USA)


April 10, 1956 - Aeromedical Field Laboratory flight #73. Carried animal capsule with Neurospora. Balloon reached 85,700 feet. Successfully recovered. (USA)

April 20, 1956 - Unmanned test flight of Manhigh system; emergency parachute test; reached 86,000 feet. (USA)

May 15, 1956 - Unmanned Strato Lab flight test; balloon failed during launch. (USA)

May 31, 1956 - Launch of two dogs, Malyshka and Linda, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-1A rocket. Reached 62 miles. (USSR)

June 7, 1956 - Launch of two dogs, Albina and Kozyavka, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-1A rocket. Reached 62 miles. (USSR)

June 14, 1956 - Launch of two dogs, Albina and Kozyavka, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-1A rocket. Reached 62 miles. (USSR

July 11, 1956 - Unmanned Strato Lab flight test; reached 100,000 feet. (USA)

July 23, 1956 - Unmanned Strato Lab flight test; balloon reached 85,000 feet. (USA)

August 6, 1956 - Unmanned Strato Lab flight test; balloon reached 60,500 feet. (USA)

August 10, 1956 - Lt. Comdrs. Malcolm D. Ross and M. Lee Lewis make first piloted high-altitude flight with a polyethylene balloon, reaching 40,000 feet in an open basket as part of Strato Lab program. (USA)

August 20, 1956 - Unmanned Strato Lab flight test; balloon reached 92,000 feet. (USA)

September 7, 1956 - Captain Iven C. Kinchloe, Jr. reached 126,600 feet in Bell X-2. (USA)

September 25, 1956 - H. Froehlich and K. Lang reach 42,000 feet in an open basket as part of Strato Lab program. (USA)

September 27, 1956 -- First flight to exceed three times the speed of sound (Mach 3); Milburn (Mel) G. Apt reached Mach 3.2 in Bell X-2; subsequent loss of control resulted in crash of airplane and death of the pilot. (USA)

November 8, 1956 - Lt. Comdrs. Malcolm D. Ross and M. Lee Lewis established altitude record of 76,000 feet during Strato Lab High I balloon flight. (USA)

December 17, 1956 - Unmanned test flight of Manhigh capsule; reached 97,000 feet before balloon broke. (USA)

March 17, 1957 - Unmanned test flight of WADC personnel parachute system for possible use with Manhigh with 180-pound anthropomorphic dummy; reached 90,000 feet. (USA)

March 21, 1957 - Unmanned test flight of Manhigh capsule. (USA)

April 14, 1957 - Unmanned test flight of Manhigh capsule; reached 95,000 feet. Capsule carried 10 guinea pigs, mice, Neurospora, and egg albumin. Successfully recovered. (USA)

April 27, 1957 - Unmanned test flight of Manhigh capsule; reached 111,800 feet. (USA)

May 15, 1957 -- First launch of Soviet R-7 intercontinental missile; vehicle disintegrated when one of the strap-on boosters broke away 98 seconds after liftoff. (USSR)

May 16, 1957 -- Launch of dogs Ryzhaya and Damke aboard R-2 rocket from Kapustin Yar. Reached an altitude of 130 miles. (USSR)

May 24, 1957 - Launch of dogs Ryzhaya and Dzhoyna aboard R-2 rocket from Kapustin Yar; dogs died due to cabin decompression. (USSR)

June 2, 1957 - Air Force Captain Joseph W. Kittinger reached 97,000 feet during Manhigh I balloon flight. (USA)

June 11, 1957 -- First launch of an Atlas missile; malfunctioned and exploded at an altitude of about 10,000 feet. (USA)

August 19 - 20, 1957 - Major David G. Simons set official altitude record of 101,516 feet (AGL) aboard Manhigh II balloon flight; 102,400 feet above sea level. (USA)

August 21, 1957 - First successful flight of Soviet R-7 intercontinental missile. (USSR)

August 25, 1957 - Launch of two dogs, Belka and Modnitsa, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-2 rocket. Reached 132 miles. (USSR)

August 31, 1957 - Launch of two dogs, Belka and Damka, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-2 rocket. Reached 132 miles. (USSR)

September 6, 1957 - Launch of two dogs, Belka and Modnitsa, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-2 rocket. Reached 132 miles. (USSR)

September 6, 1957 -- Biological rocket flight launched from Kapustin Yar. (USSR)

October 4, 1957 -- Soviet Union launches world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik-1, using R-7 as a booster. (USSR)

October 18, 1957 - Lt. Comdrs. Malcolm D. Ross and M. Lee Lewis reached 85,700 feet in Strato Lab High II balloon flight. (USA)

November 3, 1957 - Launch of Sputnik-2; carried first live orbital payload, dog Laika. (USSR)

December 6, 1957 - Vanguard TV-3, first American satellite launch attempt; rocket motor faltered a few seconds after liftoff and rocket exploded. (USA)

January 31, 1958 -- Launch of first American satellite, Explorer-1. (USA)

February 21, 1958 - Launch of dogs Pal'ma and Pushok aboard rocket from Kapustin Yar; dogs died due to cabin decompression. (USSR)

March 17, 1958 -- Launch of second American satellite, Vanguard-1. (USA)

April 23, 1958 -- Launch of Army "Mouse in Able"; Thor-Able suborbital reentry test with mouse Wickie on board; booster exploded and mouse lost. (USA)

May 6 - 7, 1958 -- Lt. Comdr. Malcolm D. Ross and Alfred H. Mikesell used open-gondola Strato Lab to reach 40,000 feet; Mikesell was first astronomer to conduct observations from the upper stratosphere. (USA)

July 9, 1958 -- Launch of Army "Mouse in Able"; Thor-Able suborbital reentry test with mouse Laska on board; recovered after flight to 1,400-mile altitude. (USA)

July 23, 1958 -- Launch of Army "Mouse in Able"; Thor-Able suborbital reentry test with mouse Benji on board; recovered after flight to 1,400-mile altitude. (USA)

July 26 - 27, 1958 -- Strato Lab High III balloon reached 82,000 feet with crew of Lt. Comdrs. Malcolm D. Ross and M. Lee Lewis. (USA)

August 2, 1958 - Launch of two dogs, Kusachka and Palma, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-2 rocket. Reached 132 miles. (USSR)

August 13, 1958 - Launch of two dogs, Kusachka and Palma, from Kapustin Yar aboard R-2 rocket. Reached 132 miles. (USSR)

August 17, 1958 - Thor-Agena with Pioneer spacecraft; failed lunar attempt. (USA)

August 27, 1958 - Launch of two dogs, Belyanka and Pestraya, aboard R-5 rocket from Kapustin Yar. Reached 280 miles. (USSR)

September 23, 1958 -- Luna probe launch attempt; booster failed. (USSR)

October 1, 1958 -- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officially came into being. (USA)

October 7, 1958 -- NASA formally organized a manned satellite program. (USA)

October 8, 1958 -- Lieutenant Clifton McClure reached 99,700 feet in Manhigh III balloon flight. (USA)

October 11, 1958 - Launch of Pioneer-1; lunar fly-by attempt; failed to reach Moon, but spacecraft reached apogee of 113,854 miles. (USA)

October 12, 1958 - Luna probe launch attempt; booster failed. (USSR)

October 31, 1958 - Biological rocket flight launched from Kapustin Yar with dogs Zhul'ka and Knopka; Reached 280 miles but parachute failed to open. (USSR)

November 8, 1958 - Pioneer-2; lunar fly-by attempt; third-stage of booster failed. (USA)

November 26, 1958 - NASA's manned satellite program officially designated Project Mercury. (USA)

December 4, 1958 - Luna probe launch attempt; booster failed. (USSR)

December 13, 1958 - Squirrel monkey (first named Old Reliable, changed to Gordo just before flight) launched on suborbital flight aboard Jupiter missile; nose cone lost due to failure of flotation mechanism, but telemetry indicated monkey survived stresses of space flight. (USA)

January 2, 1959 -- Launch of Luna-1, first Soviet moon probe; missed target by 3,700 miles. (USSR)

January 5, 1959 -- Pioneer-3; lunar fly-by attempt; failed to reach Moon, but spacecraft reached apogee of 102,333 miles. (USA)

March 3, 1959 -- Launch of Pioneer-4; lunar fly-by; passed within 37,300 miles of the Moon. (USA)

May 28, 1959 -- Suborbital flight of Able, an American born Rhesus monkey, and Baker, a South American squirrel monkey, using Army Jupiter missile; both recovered successfully, although Able died from the effects of anesthesia during surgery to remove the biotelemetry electrodes. (USA)

May 25 - 26, 1959 -- Goett Committee met for first time; NASA Steering Committee for Manned Space Flight; group recommended a follow-on program to Mercury using an enlarged capsule carrying two people. (USA)

June 4, 1959 - Launch of Discoverer III. Carried Mark I biomedical recovery capsule carrying 4 mice. Rocket did not achieve orbit. (USA)

June 8, 1959 -- First flight of North American X-15; glide flight; piloted by A. Scott Crossfield. (USA)

July 2, 1959 -- Biological rocket flight launched from Kapustin Yar. Rocket carried two dogs and one rabbit. Recovered after flight to an altitude of 275 miles. (USSR)

July 10, 1959 - Launch of two dogs, Otvazhnaya and Zhemchuzhnaya, aboard R-2 rocket from Kapustin Yar. Reached 213 miles. (USSR)

July 18, 1959 -- Luna probe launch attempt; booster failed. (USSR

August 7, 1959 - Commander Malcolm D. Ross and R. Cooper flew Strato Lab balloon with an open gondola to 38,000 feet. (USA)

August 21, 1959 - Mercury Little Joe 1 launch escape system test; vehicle failed. (USA)

September 9, 1959 -- Big Joe unmanned Mercury Atlas launch; suborbital test of heatshield and recovery system. (USA)

September 12, 1959 -- Launch of Luna-2; first man-made object to strike the Moon. (USSR)

September 16, 1959 - Jupiter AM-23 carried mice, frogs, seeds, tissue cultures, and human blood samples. Missile destroyed by range safety officer. (USA)

September 17, 1959 -- First powered flight of North American X-15; piloted by A. Scott Crossfield. (USA)

October 4, 1959 -- Launch of Luna-3; returned first images of lunar farside as it flew past the Moon. (USSR)

October 4, 1959 -- Mercury Little Joe 6 test flight from Wallops Island, VA, with boilerplate capsule. (USA)

November 4, 1959 - Mercury Little Joe 1A, test of launch escape system; launched from Wallops Island, VA. (USA)

November 16, 1959 - Captain Joseph W. Kittinger reached 76,400 feet in Excelsior I balloon flight; high-altitude bailout test. (USA)

November 26, 1959 - Atlas Able 4B; failed lunar fly-by attempt. (USA)

November 28 - 29, 1959 - Commander Malcolm D. Ross and Charles Moore reached 81,000 feet in Strato Lab High IV balloon flight. (USA)

December 4, 1959 - Mercury Little Joe 2 flight from Wallops Island, VA.; capsule carried Rhesus monkey "SAM." (USA)

December 16, 1959 - Captain Joseph W. Kittinger flew Excelsior II balloon to 74,700 feet; high-altitude bailout test. (USA)

January 20, 1960 -- Unmanned suborbital test of Vostok spacecraft. (USSR)

January 21, 1960 -- Mercury Little Joe 1B flight from Wallops Island, VA, with Rhesus monkey "Miss SAM" on board. (USA)

January 31, 1960 -- Unmanned suborbital test of Vostok spacecraft. (USSR)

April 12, 1960 -- Luna; launch failure of lunar probe. (USSR)

May 9, 1960 -- Mercury Beach Abort; unmanned test of Mercury off the pad escape. (USA)

May 15, 1960 -- Launch of Korabl Sputnik-1; unmanned test of Vostok system; carried anthropomorphic dummy; reentry failed; at retrofire, spacecraft was boosted into higher orbit. (USSR)

June 15, 1960 -- Launch of 2 dogs, Otvazhnaya and Malek, and a rabbit named Zvesdochka aboard rocket from Kapustin Yar; third flight for Otvazhnaya. (USSR)

June 24, 1960 -- Biological rocket flight launched from Kapustin Yar. Otvazhnaya made fourth flight. (USSR)

July 11, 1960 -- NASA selected Hughes, North American Aviation, Space Technology Laboratory and McDonnell Aircraft to study designs for soft-landing lunar spacecraft. (USA)

July 28, 1960 - Launch of Vostok (Korabl Sputnik) carrying dogs Bars (Panther) and Lisichka (Little Fox); booster exploded and dogs were killed. (USSR)

July 29, 1960 -- Mercury Atlas-1 launched; 59 seconds after lift-off, there was a structural failure and the vehicle was destroyed. (USA)

July 29, 1960 -- NASA announced plans for Project Apollo, an advanced manned spacecraft program. (USA)

August 16, 1960 - Captain Joseph W. Kittinger reached 102,800 feet in Excelsior III balloon flight; high-altitude bailout test. (USA)

August 18, 1960 - Launch of Korabl Sputnik-2; unmanned test of Vostok spacecraft; carried two dogs, Strelka and Belka; successfully recovered. (USSR)

September 16, 1960 - Launch of two dogs, Pal'ma and Malek, aboard R-2 rocket from Kapustin Yar. Reached 132 miles. (USSR)

September 19, 1960 - Launch of Ryan Aerolab Argo D-8 rocket and General Electric NERV #1 capsule carrying neurospora samples. Reached 1,200-mile altitude; successfully recovered. (USA)

September 22, 1960 -- Biological rocket flight launched from Kapustin Yar. (USSR)

September 25, 1960 -- Atlas Able 5; failed lunar fly-by attempt. (USA)

October 13, 1960 - Atlas boosted RVX-2A reentry vehicle carrying three mice and human skin samples. Successfully recovered after reaching an altitude of 650 miles. (USA)

November 8, 1960 - Mercury Little Joe 5 flight from Wallops Island, VA; launch escape and tower jettison rockets fired prematurely, spacecraft remained attached to booster and entire vehicle impacted in the Atlantic Ocean. (USA)

November 12, 1960 - Discoverer XVII; carried bilogical samples; recovered after 31 orbits. (USA)

November 21, 1960 - Mercury Redstone 1 flight attempt; booster shut down after a few seconds and escape rocket fired, but left spacecraft on booster. (USA)

December 1, 1960 - Launch of Korabl Sputnik-3; unmanned test of Vostok spacecraft; carried dogs Pchelka and Mushka; recovery failed; spacecraft burned up on reentry. (USA)

December 7, 1960 - Discoverer XVIII; carried biological samples including human nerve tissue and bone marrow; recovered after 48 orbits. (USA)

December 15, 1960 - Atlas Able 5B; failed lunar fly-by attempt; booster exploded 70 seconds after launch. (USA)

December 19, 1960 - Mercury Redstone-1A unmanned suborbital test. (USA)

December 28, 1960 - Korabl Sputnik launch with dogs Zhemcjizhnaya and Zhulka; upper stage failed; dogs reached altitude of 130 miles; safely recovered. (USSR)

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

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.