Special Report

The Most Important Events in NASA's History

Source: NASA

26. Pioneer passes Jupiter
> Date: Dec. 3, 1973

Pioneer 10 made the first flyby of Jupiter in late 1973. The spacecraft was originally designed for a 21-month mission to fly by Jupiter. Instead, the mission lasted more than 30 years.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

27. Apollo-Soyuz rendezvous
> Date: July 15-24, 1975

At the height of the Cold War in the mid-1970s, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to collaborate on a joint venture in space. The mission was intended to assess the compatibility of rendezvous and docking systems for American and Soviet spacecraft, as well as the feasibility of international space rescue and future joint missions.

Source: NASA

28. Viking 1 lands on Mars
> Date: July 20, 1976

The Viking 1 was the first U.S. spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, after it was launched a year earlier. Even though the main mission of the project ended on Nov. 15, 1976, the spacecraft continued to transmit to Earth for six years after first touching down on Mars.

Source: NASA / Getty Images

29. Probes observe all planets
> Date: Aug. 20, 1977-present

In the late 1960s, NASA scientists discovered that every 175 years, the Earth and the large planets in the solar system line up on one side of the Sun. This configuration would allow for a close observation of all the planets in the outer solar system in a single flight. With that in mind, NASA launched two spacecraft: Voyager 2 on Aug. 20, 1977, and Voyager 1, on a faster, shorter trajectory, on Sept. 5, 1977. The launch window to observe the alignment was between 1976 and 1980.

30. First shuttle takes off
> Date: April 12, 1981

Space Shuttle Columbia, piloted by astronauts John W. Young and Robert L. Crippin, took off for the first time. Columbia became the first airplane-like craft to land after orbiting Earth. The flight lasted about two days and six hours.

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