The WMD That Sent Us to Space

With Wern­her von Braun at the helm, Ger­many builds the first space rocket in his­tory. But soon, the Soviet Union takes the lead, with the US in hot pur­suit. Both base their tech­nolo­gies on von Braun’s V-2 rocket.

Science Illustrated - - SPACE - IM­PE­RIAL WAR MU­SEUM/GETTY/SCI­ENCE PHOTO LI­BRARY/NASA/SHUTTERSTOCK

1926NEW ROCKET TYPE LAUNCHED

Robert H. God­dard of the US launches his­tory's first rocket with liq­uid fuel. The rocket, which mea­sures 3 m, flies for 2.5 sec­onds, reach­ing an al­ti­tude of 12 m.

1944NAZI ROCKET IN SPACE

On 20 June, the V-2 rocket reaches the magic bor­der to outer space at an al­ti­tude of 100 km for the first time. The rocket trav­els to an al­ti­tude of 176 km above Earth's sur­face.

1949FIRST TWO-STAGE ROCKET LAUNCHED

Wern­her von Braun's RTV-G-4 Bumper test rocket reaches a record al­ti­tude of 400 km. The rocket uses a V-2 as a launcher and car­ries a probe at its nose.

1969 ASTRONAUT SETS FOOT ON THE MOON

On 20 July, Neil Arm­strong be­comes the first man on the Moon. The launcher is von Braun's Saturn V rocket, which is based on the V-2.

1965 COS­MO­NAUT TAKES SPACE WALK

Cos­mo­naut Alexey Leonov makes his­tory's first space walk from his Voskhod 2 space cap­sule. Leonov walks in empty space for 12 min­utes.

1961 THE US LAUNCHES THE FIRST AMER­I­CAN

On 5 May, astronaut Alan B. Shep­ard from the Mer­cury pro­gramme be­comes the first Amer­i­can in space: 15 min­utes at an al­ti­tude of 187 km.

The Moon is 400,000 km from Earth, and the Apollo crew took about three days to get there. 1981 REUSABLE SPACE SHUT­TLE

NASA’s first space shut­tle, Columbia, con­sists of four parts: the space­craft, a large fuel tank, and two rocket boost­ers. The space shut­tle can land again, and the reusable boost­ers are car­ried down by para­chutes.

1956 JUPITER-C BEATS ALL SPEED RECORDS

In a test launch from Florida, von Braun's Jupiter-C rocket reaches the stag­ger­ing speed of 20,000 km/h, trav­el­ling a record dis­tance of 5,400 km.

1957 USSR LAUNCHES FIRST SATEL­LITE

With Rus­sian rocket boss Sergei Korolev's R-7 booster rocket, which is based on V-2 tech­nol­ogy, the Soviet Union launches the world's first satel­lite, Sput­nik 1, on 4 Oc­to­ber.

1957 RUS­SIAN DOG IN OR­BIT

The dog Laika is the first liv­ing crea­ture to or­bit Earth aboard the Soviet Sput­nik 2 satel­lite. The dog dies of over­heat­ing af­ter a few days.

1961 RUS­SIANS ARE THE FIRST IN SPACE

On 12 April, Soviet cos­mo­naut Yuri Ga­garin be­comes the first hu­man be­ing in space, or­bit­ing Earth in the Vos­tok 1 space cap­sule.

1958 THE US LAUNCHES ITS FIRST SATEL­LITE

Us­ing von Braun's Jupiter rocket, the US launches its first satel­lite, Ex­plorer 1, to or­bit Earth. Jupiter's first booster stage is a Red­stone rocket based on the V-2.

2015 SPACEX LANDS ROCKET SUC­CESS­FULLY

Pri­vate space com­pany SpaceX takes re­use to the next level, land­ing its Fal­con 9 rocket on Earth in an up­right po­si­tion af­ter launch­ing 11 satel­lites into or­bit.

2019 NASA TESTS LARGE MARS ROCKET

NASA will launch the world's most pow­er­ful rocket yet, the Space Launch Sys­tem (SLS). The 117-m-high rocket could be used to send hu­mans to Mars in the 2030s.

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