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.
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.